Hospital Not Liable for Acts or Omissions of Anesthesiologist Who Worked as an Independent Contractor

August 24, 2022 | Strategic Insights for Health System


A patient was admitted to a hospital with suspected sepsis and required surgical removal of kidney stones. The patient was the last procedure of the day for the anesthesiologist. Besides the anesthesiologist, the only remaining person qualified to perform an intubation in the hospital was an emergency department (ED) physician. Before the surgery, the anesthesiologist had difficulty intubating the patient due to redundant tissue related to morbid obesity. After the surgery, the anesthesiologist extubated the patient and transferred her to the post-anesthesia care unit (PACU). The doctor did not assess that the patient was in respiratory distress at the time of the transfer to the PACU.

Once in the PACU, vital signs showed evidence of distress (e.g., elevated blood pressure, elevated heart rate, fever). The nursing staff was unable to obtain an oxygen saturation reading despite multiple attempts. After the anesthesiologist made numerous unsuccessful attempts to reintubate the patient, an Ambu bag was used to maintain oxygenation. Suddenly, the patient's heart stopped; the anesthesiologist called a code blue, CPR was initiated, and the ED doctor was summoned to assist. The ED doctor successfully intubated the patient about an hour after the original extubation took place. The patient was diagnosed as being in a vegetative state and died...

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