When a child dies, it’s always a tragedy not only for the parents but for the community as well. But when a child dies because of someone else’s negligence, grief is oftentimes accompanied by anger and the gut-wrenching question, "Could anything have been done to prevent the tragedy?"
Across the nation, these are the mixed emotions felt by a number of people after hearing about the loss of a 14-month-old girl who died this month because of complications with the anesthesia she was given. And though her tragic death occurred thousands of miles away from New York, her story illustrates the risk anesthetics pose to children.
Although anesthesia is considered relatively safe, complications can still arise, not only because of a patient’s reaction to the medication, but because of mistakes made by anesthesiologists during procedures.
Anesthesiologists are required to constantly monitor a patient – from their vitals to the amount of medication they are giving to the patient. If the attending anesthesiologists fails to recognize distress or accidentally gives a patient too much medication, serious complications can occur which can result in death.
According to a 2009 publication for the National Center for Biotechnology Information, anesthesia was responsible for more than 2,000 deaths in the United States alone between 1999 and 2005. For children, the risk goes beyond just death. According to 2015 New York Times article, multiple exposures to anesthesia may damage brain cells, which can lead to developmental issues with the brain, learning and memory issues as well as behavioral problems later on.
When a child is sick or needs medical attention, parents are already on edge, oftentimes worried about their child’s condition in addition to the possible treatments their child will have to undergo. This concern is only deepened when parents realize the danger anesthesia could pose to their child and the possible outcome they could face if complications arise.