Anesthesia makes life-saving medical procedures possible, and most anesthesiologists and nurse-anesthetists are well-trained, careful, and competent. But when they are not and anesthesia goes wrong, serious problems, including death, can result. Anesthesia errors are often an indication of medical malpractice.

We think of anesthesia problems as happening in hospitals during major surgery being performed  under general anesthesia, but they can also occur in doctors’ offices, dentists’ offices, and outpatient clinics.  Complications can also happen with local anesthesia or regional anesthesia.


Anesthesia errors can include tracheal damage, asphyxia, mental trauma, stroke, heart damage, lung damage, birth injury, brain damage, coma, and death.


Reported complications occur at a rate of approximately .724 per 1000 surgical discharges in the United States. Approximately one in every 200,000 to 300,000 anesthesia patients dies, according to some estimates, and there are approximately .724 reported complications for every 1000 surgeries. Because there is a tendency to underreport problems with anesthesia, the actual numbers may be higher.

Any doctor or nurse given the responsibility to administer anesthesia owes a duty of care to the patient. They are expected to pay close attention throughout the process and to be closely focused on the equipment, the patient’s condition and vital signs, and the amount and kind of drugs being given, as well as continue monitoring until the anesthesia has completely worn off and the patient is awake.


Aside from a low number of problems resulting from faulty equipment—only 4 percent—most anesthesia problems are caused by human error. These are some of the anesthesia errors that may harm patients:

  • Giving the wrong dosage
  • Improperly assessing the patient before surgery
  •  Drug interactions
  • Drug mix-ups
  • Leaving the patient unattended or failing to monitor
  • Improperly inserting the tracheal tube
  • Improperly administering oxygen
  • Accidentally disconnecting the breathing circuit
  • Failing to communicate clearly during surgery
  • Administering anesthesia while using drugs or alcohol


When a person dies or is injured because of a preventable anesthesia error, the injured person or the survivors of the deceased person may have a claim to a monetary recovery as compensation for their damages. The malpractice insurance company that covers the hospital, clinic, or healthcare professional will occasionally offer a small settlement in exchange for a broad, general release. But getting fair and equitable compensation requires representation by an experienced medical malpractice lawyer. Medical malpractice cases are difficult because the damages are often high and the insurance companies fight these claims vigorously.

The Washington attorneys at Wattel and York are experienced in pursuing these cases and have the skill, legal knowledge, and access to the medical experts who will analyze the records and conduct an investigation into the incident to pinpoint where the practitioner deviated from a professional standard of patient care and committed malpractice. We believe that victims of these careless healthcare providers deserve compensation for their losses and that negligent professionals must be held accountable.

If you suspect that your medical problem or the death of someone close to you was caused by a preventable anesthesia error, contact Wattel and York today. We provide a free evaluation of your case without obligation, and you pay nothing unless we win money for you.