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Boston Wrongful Death Settlement Reached over Dorchester Woman’s Fatal Fall from Operating Table

A Massachusetts wrongful death settlement agreement has been reached between Boston Medical Center and the family of Catherine O’Donnell. The 86-year-old woman died on October 13, 2007 a week after she fell while being readied for transfer from an operating room table to her hospital bed.

O’Donnell sustained a massive head injury during the Boston fall accident. Last year, her family filed a Boston wrongful death lawsuit against the teaching hospital. In their Boston medical malpractice complaint, O’Donnell’s family accused operating room staffers of failing to provide the expected standard of care to O’Donnell and that this resulted in her fatal fall accident. The plaintiffs contend that the medical team was too busy and preoccupied when moving the elderly patient. They also take issue with how they were first told that the hip surgery was a success and were then notified about O’Donnell’s head injury.

Anesthesiologist resident Dr. Carlos Guzman, orthopedic resident Dr. John Pryor, and nurses Ingrid Rush and Harvinder Miller are among the defendants named in the Boston wrongful death lawsuit.

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health cited procedural deficiencies as factors leading to O’Donnell’s fall accident. The hospital also determined that the operating staff was not paying full attention when attempting to move the elderly woman and that the removal of the safety belt from her person was not properly communicated between staffers.

Operating room staffers, just like nursing home workers, must exercise the right amount of caution to prevent fall accidents when assisting patients between beds, to their wheelchair, down the hallway, to the bathroom, into the shower, etcetera. Patients who are under anesthesia, unconscious, or not fully lucid for any other reason are usually unable to assist or support themselves during this move and are even more reliant on those around them to ensure a safe transfer or move. Yet the Bureau of Heath Care Safety and Quality says that every year, at least 50% of the 800 medical errors resulting in serious injuries that happen in Massachusetts hospitals involve fall accidents.

Fall accidents can result in serious injuries and may be especially catastrophic for elderly people, whose health may deteriorate as a result.

Family, hospital settle after mother’s fatal fall in operating room, Boston.com, October 14, 2009
Boston Wrongful Death Lawsuit Is Filed After 86-Year-Old Dorchester Woman Sustains Fatal Head Injury In Operating Room Table Fall, Boston Injury Lawyer, January 30, 2008
Related Web Resources:
Boston Medical Center

Hospital Falls Study Suggests Ways to Reduce Risk, Washington University in St. Louis