Medical Malpractice Case Report: $2.2 Million for Negligence During Colonoscopy Resulting in Brain Injury

Firm Partner Terry Wade handled this medical malpractice case involving negligent failure to provide assessments and interventions during a colonoscopy resulting in anoxic encephalopathy brain injury to a 49-year-old gentleman. Read the following Minnesota Association for Justice (MAJ) Minnesota Case Report, Vol.30, No.1, Summer 2011. 

Selected Results*

(Excerpts taken with permission from Minnesota Trial Lawyer Association’s (MTLA) “Minnesota Case Reports”)

On April 26, 2007, plaintiff B underwent a screening colonoscopy in preparation for a kidney transplant. A colonoscopy requires that the colon be cleaned out with laxatives in advance of the procedure and the colon is then inspected with use of a scope by a gastroenterologist. The gastroenterologist performing the procedure on B directed that he use a colon preparation material known as Fleet Phospho-soda. Fleet Phospho-soda was an improper colon preparation material to use in a patient with kidney disease. As a result of the use of this Fleet Phospho-soda, B was required to undergo dialysis and suffered complications associated with that dialysis for many months before he could have the kidney transplant.

A second claim involved anesthesia care.  The anesthesia care was provided by a certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA).  The CRNA used a drug called propofol on B.  The CRNA failed to follow the manufacturer's directions.  He used too much propofol too fast.  As a result of the excessive amount and rapid administration of propofol, B had a serious and rapid drop in blood pressure, a serious and rapid drop in heart rate, and he stopped breathing resulting in a loss of oxygen.  As a result of this loss of oxygen, he suffered a brain injury from decreased oxygen, which has affected his physical and intellectual abilities.  These injuries include a need to use a walker and require that he live in a group home because of impairment from the brain injury.  Past subrogated medical expenses totalled $647,033 which was compromised by payment of $372,994.  There was no wage loss or loss of earning capacity claim since B was totally disabled as a result of juvenile onset diabetes, end stage renal disease, and other diabetes-related health issues.

Interestingly, two other malpractice lawyers had reviewed this matter and declined the opportunity to pursue it.  Both accepted the gastroenterologist entry in the records that B's brain injury was caused by a severe vasovagal response.  Vasovagal reactions do occur in up to 16% of colonoscopies-but do not result in brain damage.  Neither identified the inappropriate use of Fleets Phospho-soda or the excessive propofol administration.

The case settled a few weeks before trial for $2,200,000 (Policy limits of $2,000,000 for CRNA and his employer; $200,000 from gastroenterologist).