Brain-Damaged Woman to get Compensation for Administration of Wrong Medicine

A woman who suffered brain damage after being injected with a nasal decongestant instead of an anesthetic has been awarded $5.1 million compensation for the administration of the wrong medicine by a court in Philadelphia.

On 7 June 2010, Jacqueline DiTore attended the Abington Surgical Centre in Pennsylvania for elective surgery her nose. Prior to starting the surgery, Dr Warren Zager asked a nurse to prepare an injection of 1 percent lidocaine as an anesthetic and cotton wall balls soaked in Afrin to control the bleeding during the procedure.

The nurse poured the Afrin into an unlabeled cup in order to soak the cotton wool balls before preparing the anesthetic; but a second nurse mistook the contents of the cup to be lidocaine and drew the liquid up into a syringe which she then handed to the doctor.

Dr Zager injected the Afrin into Jacqueline´s nose and then started to prepare for the surgery. The anesthetist noticed that Jacqueline´s heart rate had dropped to 36 beats per minute and – unaware that Jacqueline had been injected with Afrin – administered glycopyrrolate (an anticholinergic) which brought Jacqueline´s heart rate back up to 80 beats per minute.

When Dr Zager returned to his patient, Jacqueline still had a sensation in her nose and the doctor asked for more 1 percent lidocaine – but was told that the surgery only had 2 percent lidocaine. It was then that the error was discovered, but Dr Zager chose to proceed with the surgery and used the 2 percent lidocaine to anesthetize Jacqueline´s nose.

Following the injection of lidocaine, Jacqueline´s heart rate leapt to 140 beats per minute with a blood pressure of 260/150 and at that point labetalol was administered (a drug used to lower high blood pressure). This caused Jacqueline´s blood pressure to bottom out and she went into cardiac arrest. Jacqueline passed out and was taken to Abington Memorial Hospital where she was resuscitated.

As a result of the cardiac arrest, Jacqueline suffered brain damage and now has impaired cognitive abilities, difficulty with her sight and speech, and short-term memory loss. Doctors told her that her condition is likely to deteriorate as she gets older and, after seeking legal advice, Jacqueline claimed compensation for the administration of the wrong medicine against the Abington Surgical Centre and Dr Zager.

Both defendant´s denied that they were responsible for Jacqueline´s injury, contesting that Dr Zager was right to continue with the nasal procedure as the lidocaine that was administered in the second injection did not compound the effect of the Afrin and therefore did not contribute to her reaction. It was also argued that Jacqueline was “high-functioning”, and that her injuries were not as bad as they had been portrayed.

Jacqueline´s compensation claim for the administration of the wrong medicine went before Judge Thomas M. Del Ricci at the Montgomery County Court in Philadelphia and, after considerable deliberations, the jury found Dr Zager 38.5 percent negligent and the Abington Surgical Center 61.5 percent negligent – awarding Jacqueline $5.1 million compensation for the administration of the wrong medicine.