Falls: Patient Slides Off Operating Table; Surgeons Negligent

June 1, 2002 | Health System Risk Management


Surgeons performing a procedure on an unconscious patient who fell off an operating table while under general anesthesia were negligent in allowing such an accident to occur, according to a New York state appeals court. The decision reversed a previous ruling by the New York County Supreme Court, which had denied a motion for partial summary judgment filed by the patient.

The patient was administered general anesthesia to undergo a procedure and was unconscious when the lower part of his body slid off of the operating table, causing his head to slip out of a head-stabilizing device. As a result of the fall, he sustained head lacerations and trauma to his neck and required mechanical assistance to breathe for six days. He sued the physicians, claiming they were liable for his injuries. Seeking partial summary judgment, he alleged negligence based on the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur(meaning that the event in itself obviously demonstrated the physicians' negligence). The patient's hospital records, which he submitted as evidence, indicated that the operating table was tilted at an extreme angle and that the fall occurred while the patient was being turned to provide a better view of the surgical site. The supreme court denied the patient's motion for...

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