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Operating Room Flash Fires are a Deadly Concern

We as Americans put enormous trust in healthcare professionals. Each year, people trust doctors to perform surgery on them; the last thing they expect is to light on fire during the operation.

Nevertheless, according to a report published by MSNBC, experts estimate that each year 650 fires flare up in operating rooms around the country. Some patients recover with scars and emotional damage. Some die from burns and smoke inhalation.

A Chicago personal injury attorney can attest that Illinois medical malpractice lawsuits arise when patients are injured by careless or intentional acts of a doctor, nurse, hospital, or other healthcare provider.

When a person is determined to be legally responsible for injury to someone else, they are liable for that injury and may be made to pay damages resulting from the harm caused. In these cases, healthcare providers are liable for not preventing the fire, and, in more serious cases, not acting in a way to prevent the patient’s death or permanent disfigurement from the fire.

Devastatingly, that’s exactly what happened to a 29 year-old mother of three, who was scheduled for routine outpatient surgery to remove some growths from her head. The woman’s face caught fire during the operation, and she had to be rushed by helicopter to a trauma burn unit because the flash fire had seared her face and neck. In this type of situation, the doctors and nurses who were in the operating room could potentially be held liable for medical malpractice, and be required to compensate the woman for her pain and suffering, as well as her facial disfigurement, and the hospital bills that accrue from having to correct the damage to the woman’s face.

MSNBC‘s report states that experts say it shouldn’t be a surprise when flash fires occur in operating rooms because, with electro-cautery surgical devices and lasers, the necessary ingredients are on hand to spark a conflagration: oxygen, alcohol prep and an ignition source.

On the other hand, knowing that this formula has the potential to ignite, healthcare providers have the burden of ensuring that the necessary steps are taken to prevent fires in the operating room. Moreover, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration launched a new initiative to prevent surgical fires, noting that although these flash fires are relatively rare events, they are also highly preventable.

Medical providers owe a duty of care to their patients. When that duty is breached and the patient is harmed, the professional may be required to answer to an Illinois medical malpractice lawsuit. Additionally, the hospitals for which the responsible doctor or nurse works may also be legally liable; in general, healthcare institutions have the responsibility to supervise their staff to ensure that mistakes aren’t made, and to hire professionals who have enough knowledge to competently treat patients.

If you or a loved one has been harmed by the negligent acts of a healthcare professional, contact an attorney to better understand your rights under the law. You may be entitled to compensation for your injuries.