Drunken anesthesiologist's negligence kills mom during routine C-section

pregnant womanAs if an excruciatingly long and painful labor weren't enough of an anxiety-causing prospect for expectant mothers, they may now have another fear to add to the list: ending up filed under the case of a drunken anesthesiologist. A 28-year-old British woman died on Tuesday in France, three days after slipping into a coma after giving birth to her first child, a healthy baby boy, via C-section. The complications resulted from the negligence of the patient's anaesthesiologist, who is suspected of being drunk during the cesarean section and has officially been charged with manslaughter.

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Investigators believe the 45-year-old Belgian anesthesiologist inserted a tube from a ventilator into the patient's esophagus instead of her windpipe, thereby unwittingly depriving the latter of oxygen and causing her to go into cardiac arrest. Before she was called into surgery on Friday evening, the medical professional had been at a concert and cocktail party, where she presumably drank large quantities of alcohol. 

Adding insult to injury, the suspect confessed to being routinely inebriated at work. When she was questioned on Tuesday, after the patient's tragic death, the suspect confessed to having a long-standing alcohol problem, one so severe that she would carry vodka inside a water bottle and take swigs of the hard liquor throughout the day. At the time of the interrogation, her alcohol level was 2.1 grams/liter of alcohol in her blood--the equivalent of four bottles of wine and nearly three times the legal limit for drivers in the UK. Though there is no concrete evidence that she was intoxicated on Friday, during the surgical procedure, there is substantial reason to believe that this was, indeed, the case--particularly given the suspect's own admissions regarding her debilitating addiction to alcohol. 

The suspect, whose name has been withheld from the press, faces five years in prison if convicted of manslaughter. Not only was the new mother's death a terrible tragedy, but it was one that could've easily been avoided if the medical professionals tasked with her care had met their ethical obligations. Instead, a young woman died before she had the opportunity to meet her newborn child, while the latter was condemned to a life as an orphan.

It's infuriating to think anyone would be so irresponsible, so careless, and so selfish as to put her own desire for a booze-induced buzz above the safety and well-being of another human being. But we also have to wonder whether all of the anesthesiologist's co-workers were unaware of her dependence on alcohol. Did they not smell the booze in her breath? Did no one notice slurred speech or impaired motor functions? And if they were, in fact, aware of her illness--because, yes, alcoholism is an illness--then why didn't they interfere? Hospital administrators could easily have ordered her to check into a rehabilitation center. So could the hospital be held liable here too?

If the hospital staffers claim complete ignorance regarding the anaesthesiologist's routine drunkenness, then perhaps they need to implement a breathalizer system to maintain order and regain the trust of their would-be patients.

Image via Corbis 

Topics: arrest  death  alcohol  murder  anesthesiologist  malpractice  manslaughter  c-section  labor