In 2009 a brilliant 17-year-old student, who had a promising life and career ahead of her, slipped into a coma during a routine procedure at Mattel Children’s Hospital UCLA in California.
The tragic case of Olivia Cull was presented to Congress two years later as justification for reforms in medical malpractice caps. It also illustrates the little-known dangers inherent in so-called “cath labs.”
The Los Angeles Times noted how as a baby, Olivia had surgery to correct a defect that left one side of her heart smaller than the other. On Jan. 9, 2009, she went to the Californian hospital for what should have been a routine operation before leaving for college on the East Coast in the fall.
The catheterization procedure should have taken a few hours. Tragically Olivia slipped into a coma and was eventually taken off life support.
Olivia’s death and those of other patients have shed light on what goes on in cath labs. I have a concern about the alarming practice of removing heart pacemakers and defibrillator lead wires in catheterization labs, rather than in operating rooms, which is resulting in numerous avoidable deaths across the country.
As a Virginia wrongful death attorney, it frightens me to learn that a continuation of this practice will statistically result in an otherwise avoidable death every 100 to 200 procedures. Heart specialists who continue to carry out these procedures in cath labs, rather than in available operating rooms, are facing lawsuits when their decisions result in a patient’s death or an injury. A doctor’s choice to continue performing pacemaker and lead wire removals in cath labs could be seen as negligent and can serve as the basis for a wrongful death lawsuit.
Cath labs, unlike operating rooms, are not properly equipped with the necessary surgical team or bypass machines to react to complications that may arise during heart procedures. When these procedures are carried in a cath lab, a surgical team is simply put on call and the potentially life-saving bypass machine is housed in a different location within the medical facility. If complications arise patients may lose out on immediate, life-saving medical care. Seconds count in heart procedures. In the event of a complication, a patient could die in the time is takes to mobilize the surgical team and bypass machine from a different location. This is more than a theoretical concern. It’s happening in hospitals across the nation.
Alarmingly, hospitals do not appear to be dealing with this serious issue. Hospital administrators should be implementing mandatory policies and guidelines requiring that pacemaker removals and lead wire extractions are only performed within properly staffed and equipped operating rooms. Like the performing doctor, a hospital may also be negligent in causing a patient’s death. Inadequate facilities, equipment, and personnel are just a few of the many ways in which hospitals negligently contribute to patient deaths.
A wrongful death claim due to medical malpractice requires extensive investigation and review by a qualified team of lawyers and medical experts. In cases involving the negligent removal of a pacemaker or defibrillator lead wire, it is important to have a lawyer evaluate the doctor’s choices and actions leading up to the procedure, and the hospital’s role in creating policies to govern how and where these potentially dangerous procedures are performed. If you have had a family member die during one of these procedures, the attorneys at Cooper Hurley Injury Lawyers would be glad to provide a free consultation to review your claim. Please feel free to contact us at (757) 455-0077 or through our website CooperHurley.com.