Anesthesia Errors and Medical Malpractice

Anesthesia is often seen as a miraculous element of modern medicine, allowing patients to undergo surgical procedures without feeling pain or discomfort. However, when errors occur in the administration of anesthesia, the consequences can be severe and long-lasting. Understanding what constitutes an anesthesia error and how it fits into the realm of medical malpractice can empower patients and families in South Carolina and beyond to safeguard their well-being.

What Are Anesthesia Errors?

Anesthesia errors can occur in various forms, such as:

  • Dosage Mistakes: Administering too much or too little anesthesia can lead to extreme consequences, including anesthesia awareness (waking up during surgery) or overdose.
  • Failure to Monitor: Anesthesiologists are responsible for monitoring vital signs and adjusting anesthesia levels accordingly. Neglecting this duty can result in harm.
  • Delayed Administration: Administering anesthesia too late can cause the patient to feel pain during the initial stages of the procedure.
  • Equipment Errors: Malfunctioning or poorly maintained equipment can lead to anesthesia complications.
  • Adverse Reactions: Failure to review medical history for potential adverse reactions or allergies to anesthesia drugs can be disastrous.

Impact of Anesthesia Errors

  • Physical Harm: Wrong anesthesia dosages or types can cause nerve damage, heart issues, and, in extreme cases, death.
  • Psychological Distress: Experiencing anesthesia awareness can lead to severe emotional trauma and conditions like PTSD.

Anesthesia Errors and Medical Malpractice in South Carolina

In South Carolina, as in other states, anesthesia errors can constitute medical malpractice. To establish a medical malpractice claim, the patient must generally prove:

  • Duty of Care: Establish that a doctor-patient relationship existed, and thus the medical professional had a duty of care.
  • Breach of Duty: Prove that the anesthesiologist or other medical personnel breached this duty of care.
  • Causation: Show that the breach directly caused the injury.
  • Damages: Demonstrate that the injury led to quantifiable harm, such as additional medical expenses, lost wages, or emotional distress.

South Carolina-specific Regulations:

  • Expert Affidavit Requirement: South Carolina law often requires an affidavit from a qualified expert to confirm that the defendant’s conduct fell below the standard of care.
  • Statute of Limitations: In South Carolina, you generally have three years from the date of the medical error or the date you should have reasonably discovered it to file a lawsuit.

Preventive Steps and Red Flags

  • Informed Consent: Always make sure you understand the anesthesia process and the associated risks before undergoing any procedure.
  • Second Opinions: When possible, seek a second opinion to verify that anesthesia is necessary and the suggested type is appropriate.
  • Check Credentials: Ensure that the anesthesiologist has the necessary credentials and experience.


Anesthesia errors, while less discussed, are a significant facet of medical malpractice. For patients and families in South Carolina, understanding the legal ramifications of these errors can offer a pathway to justice and compensation for any harm suffered. If you believe you or a loved one has been a victim of an anesthesia error, consider seeking expert advice to navigate the complexities of medical malpractice law in South Carolina.