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Victim never wakes up after undergoing anesthesia

It is engrained within the minds of most patients in New Mexico to trust their doctors, just as a child trusts a police officer. We look to our doctors to provide guidance and insight in times of sickness and injury. When this trust is violated and a loved-one is killed by a doctor, a family is within their rights to seek answers. However, a death while under medical care does not always qualify as medical malpractice. Instances of medical malpractice in New Mexico can be difficult to prove because there must be clear cut evidence of liability.

The often difficult nature of medical malpractice cases is displayed in a lawsuit against JFK Medical Center in New Jersey that is set to return to the state Superior Court in an out-of-state case stemming from the death of a 49-year-old woman that never woke up after undergoing anesthesia for an arthroscopic knee surgery in 2006. The woman went into cardiac arrest and was left in a vegetative state for over two years until she died from complications resulting from pneumonia in her coma.

In a lower court, the ruling was in favor of the estate of the victim. The lower court believed that the case was complicated by the fact that the medical record and medical codes were lost. After examining the case, the court deemed it probable that the patient's death resulted from malpractice.

However, an appellate court disputed that ruling determing that, "We do not find the loss of evidence (the medical records) affects our decision since, as defendants point out, the loss of evidence may elucidate the origins or decedent's condition, but in no way contributed to its occurrence." Therefore, the appellate ruling concluded that that there was inadequate proof to determine malpractice stemming from negligent care because the risks associated with anesthesia were made known to the victim.

The case was set to return to a state Superior Court. While the ruling on this case and any possible compensation for the estate of the victim remain unknown, this case details the complex nature of possible instances of medical malpractice. It is often critical that when a family loses a loved one at the hands of a doctor, the family retain experienced legal representation to ensure the best chance at proving liability on behalf of medical professionals and establishments.

Source: Central Jersey, "Wrongful-death suit ruling overturned," Mark Spivey, Sept. 25, 2012

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