Catastrophic injuries resulting in permanent vision loss / blindness have significant physical, emotional, and financial consequences for injured claimants and their loved ones. An injury causing significant visual impairment results in pain, suffering, expensive medical care and treatments, the cost of home modifications, loss of employment prospects and wages, and a serious change in lifestyle.
Catastrophic Vision Loss Injury / Blindness from Medical Malpractice
A catastrophic vision loss injury may be the result of a botched eye operation or by medical complications arising out of surgery, or treatment, on an entirely different part of a patient’s body. For example, a heart surgery patient who is experiencing low blood pressure and receives a diuretic may experience a lack of perfusion to end organs such as the eyes during his or her operation that could render the patient unresponsive and permanently blind if the anesthesiologist and other medical professionals do not properly monitor patient’s vital signs and medications during surgery.
Medical malpractice lawyers in Philadelphia, Allentown, Cherry Hill, and the surrounding counties can hold their treating physicians, medical staff, and hospitals responsible for conduct or inaction resulting in a catastrophic vision loss injury. By holding the medical professional responsible, a malpractice attorney will help the injured person, and their loved ones, receive compensation for their losses.
Intraoperative Vision Loss Injury Resulting from Surgery Unrelated to the Patient’s Eyes
While there are a variety of causes for post-operative vision loss, ischemic optic neuropathy (ION) is the leading cause. ION is a post-operative complication, and, although it is rare, it has been more frequently diagnosed over the last few years. ION occurs when there is a disruption of the blood supply to the optic nerve heads, which results in partial or complete vision loss. The optic nerve transports signals from the eye to the brain, which then changes the signals into images. Vision is not possible without a healthy optic nerve. Many times, patients go in for surgery and simply wake-up blind.
Deceivingly, ION frequently occurs during surgery that has nothing to do with the patient’s eyes. Catastrophic vision loss injuries have been reported following numerous, non-occular related surgeries: general, orthopedic, neurologic, and otolaryngologic (ear, nose and throat) surgeries. Scoliosis and other prolonged surgeries lasting more than 4 to 6 hours present the greatest chance of a vision loss injury. Unfortunately, no treatment currently exists, or has been shown to be effective, as a remedy to ION. Risk factors associated with the onset of ischemic optic neuropathy include: acute blood loss, obesity, hypertension, use of a surgical frame that places the head lower than the heart, length of surgery, age, sex, peripheral vascular disease, use of certain fluids that replace blood, and diabetes.
Breach of the Accepted Standards of Medical Care and Informed Consent
Injured persons, and their loved ones, may have a valid basis for a medical malpractice lawsuit if they suffer from ischemic optic neuropathy (ION) following an operation. Physicians, medical staff, nurses, and the hospital are all potential defendants subject to investigation by a medical malpractice attorney. Liability will depend upon whether the medical care provided to the patient met accepted standards of medical practice. The conduct, or inaction, of physicians, medical staff, and nurses may subject the hospital to vicarious liability. In some instances, the hospital’s failure to ensure patient safety and well-being may subject a hospital to corporate liability.
A thorough legal investigation will also focus on the information provided to the patient about the risks of the medical procedure. The lack of informed consent is a distinct basis for liability. Pennsylvania law requires physicians to disclose information to patients in a manner that the patient can understand in order to enable the patient to meaningfully weigh all options given the risks of medical treatment or surgery.
Valid informed consent means that the physician described the procedure to the patient, the risks of the procedure, and any alternative treatments that a reasonable patient would consider. In the case of a catastrophic vision loss injury, an informed consent claim may be viable when the risk of ION following surgery is not disclosed to a patient prior to the procedure, and such information would have been a “substantial factor” in the patient’s decision to move forward with the suggested treatment.
Contact a Medical Malpractice Lawyer Specializing in Blindness & Catastrophic Vision Loss Injuries
It is amazing how much we rely on our vision. Our eyes help us read and write important work documents, enable us to visualize breathtaking landscapes, and allow us to see our family and friends. If you, or your loved one, have suffered a partial or full blindness injury during a medical procedure, contact a medical malpractice attorney in our Pennsylvania or New Jersey offices today.
Slade McLaughlin and Paul Lauricella are experienced trial lawyers who are knowledgeable in Pennsylvania and New Jersey medical malpractice law. Together, Slade and Paul have secured record-setting verdicts and settlements for their clients, and are considered to be among the best medical malpractice attorneys in Philadelphia and the surrounding counties.