$1,000,000 Settlement in Medical Malpractice Action Against Physicians for Performing Tonsillectomy on Nine Year Old with Severe Sleep Apnea

The plaintiff was a 9 year old boy with severe obstructive sleep apnea that was affecting his quality of life. His pediatrician suggested the child see an otolaryngologist to determine whether a tonsillectomy would improve his sleep apnea. The otolaryngologist recommended a tonsillectomy be performed at an outpatient surgery center owned by the otolaryngologist rather than a hospital. The procedure was performed without complication. However, the anesthesiologist was unaware of the child's preexisting history of severe obstructive sleep apnea. Postoperatively the child received routine post-operative narcotic pain medication. The child was monitored in the recovery room for approximately 45 minutes and discharged home in a groggy condition. His mother took him home where the child went to sleep. The parents checked on him every 30 minutes. Approximately 3 hours after discharge the parents went to check on their child and found that he was nonresponsive. Emergency medical service were called and the child was quickly taken to the emergency room. However, he remained unresponsive and was subsequently pronounced dead. The cause of death was a lack of oxygen to the brain due to airway obstruction caused by the sleep apnea plus the effects of the narcotic pain medication. The personal representative alleged the otolaryngologist and anesthesiologist were negligent for scheduling this procedure on an outpatient basis in light of the child's history and then for failing to properly monitor the child postoperatively for at least 4 hours. The case settled for the statutory maximum allowed by Florida law for wrongful death claims against physicians.