Elderly Connecticut Woman Sues Hospital for Falling Off Operating Table Following Surgery

Hospitals aren’t just places where patients receive life-saving care.

They’re also places where ill patients can receive additional injuries that can cause further complications for people who are already suffering from health crises.

That’s just what happened to an 81-year-old Connecticut woman who received serious injuries when she fell from an operating table after having surgery when she was a patient in Yale-New Haven Hospital in February of 2010, according to a story by the Associated Press (AP).

A team of doctors and nurses perform surgery on a patient in this stock photo. Image credit: © iStockphoto.com/uchar

The woman, Florence Fiedler of New Canaan, fell off the operating table after having a pacemaker implanted, according to the story, and suffered hip and collarbone fractures as well as a traumatic head injury that caused bleeding under her skull.

“The lawsuit says the hospital didn’t implement policies and procedures to prevent Fiedler from falling and failed to recognize that Fiedler was not completely recovered from the surgical medications, which put her at increased risk for falling,” according to the story. “The lawsuit also alleges the hospital improperly left Fiedler unattended and said employees didn’t put the operating table in the lowest position before allowing Fiedler to reposition herself.”

Since the incident, the hospital apologized to the woman and implemented policy changes, the story reported.

A spokesman for the hospital told the AP that the hospital “promptly reported the incident to the state Department of Public Health Yale-New Haven Hospital and implemented a corrective action plan.”

The woman underwent months of physical therapy after she was injured but “now must face daily pain for the rest of her life,” her attorney told The Connecticut Post. “She had to relearn how to walk and was transformed from an independent, spry, energetic woman enjoying her golden years to someone dependent on others who is now a shut-in,” the attorney told the paper.

The incident is an example of how things can go awry inside hospitals where patients are being treated for a wide range of medical procedures.

In 2010, a 61-year-old Minnesota man died in St. Joseph’s Hospital in St. Paul after he fell from an operating table and struck his head, according to a story on CBS TV Channel 4 WCCO. “The suit alleges that the hospital didn’t adequately secure Max Devries to the table,” according to the report. The patient was scheduled for routine surgery following a stroke and weighed more than 300 pounds, the story said.

A report on the Web site, Ergonomics Today, said the family’s lawsuit against the hospital “contends that the hospital lacked ‘appropriate facilities and equipment, including wide enough tables and adequate restraints to perform an operation.'”

The incident “clearly shows the importance of safe patient handling” and should provide lessons that others should learn from, the story said. “The challenge in safe patient handling will always remain how to eliminate human error in the decision making process.  Even after safe patient handling culture is established and all of the processes to support SPH are in place, it still comes down to the decision making process and judgment of the caregivers involved with the patient, to decide what equipment to use and to use it correctly.”

These kinds of accidents shouldn’t happen and hospitals and their personnel need to do more to prevent patients from being injured further while they are being treated.

Better ergonomic procedures would help prevent such injuries as would better training and equipment that would help hospital staff members meet any patient needs that arise, especially following surgeries.

No one should leave a medical facility having suffered further injury while inside the institution. That’s just outrageous.

We here at MyPhillyLawyer stand ready to help you if you are seriously injured in an accident or other emergency and we also are here to serve you if you would be injured further inside a hospital while receiving treatment.

When Winning Matters Most, call MyPhillyLawyer.