Ross Feller Casey founding partner Joel J. Feller recovered $6 million for the parents of a 17-year-old girl who died as a result of medical negligence after undergoing a routine tonsillectomy.
On March 20, 2012, following an uncomplicated tonsillectomy outpatient procedure performed at Abington Surgical Center, Mariah Edwards was abandoned and not properly monitored by nurses responsible for her care in the post-anesthesia care unit, or PACU.
Upon arrival to the PACU, Mariah was administered Fentanyl, a potent narcotic known for depressing respiratory function.
Despite the known adverse complications associated with the narcotic, Mariah was left unmonitored by the nurse assigned to her in the PACU for at least 25 minutes.
Mariah’s changing and worsening respiratory condition went unobserved and untreated as she laid in the PACU with the curtains drawn.
Nurses failed to perform routine assessments to determine if Mariah was arrousable and failed to take any vital signs following an initial set taken immediately upon entry to the PACU. It was also uncovered during the course of discovery that monitoring equipment utilized to alert health care providers to changing conditions were muted, ignored and/or not properly set.
As a result of the prolonged period of being deprived oxygen, Mariah suffered a profound and irreversible brain injury. From the Abington Surgical Center, Mariah was transferred and treated at Abington Memorial Hospital for 15 days, until her death on April 3, 2012.
The case drew media attention, including a front-page article in The Legal Intelligencer (read story here), and a Special Investigative Report by 6ABC WPVI TV in Philadelphia (view video on left).
As a result of this case, Abington Surgical Center has made a series of policy changes to address the safety and well-being of PACU patients. Policy changes include: assigning one-on-one nursing care to patients who have received IV narcotics in the PACU; monitoring equipment is no longer muted; drawing of curtains that would restrict views of patients is prohibited; and a dedicated charge nurse will have the responsibility to monitor the patient flow and staffing of nurses in the PACU.
The death of Mariah, a junior at Abington High School who had hopes of someday becoming a fashion designer, is a cautionary tale for all parents or anyone preparing for outpatient surgery, Feller said.
Outpatient recovery rooms can be dangerous places because patients are at their most vulnerable and require a high level of care as they come out of anesthesia. The public, he said, often focuses attention on questions surrounding the procedure itself and post-surgery issues often go unaddressed.
Feller stressed that the public should ask a lot of questions before a procedure to make sure that the surgical center has in place policies for adequate monitoring during recovery.