An Illinois woman has died six days after a surgical fire during an operation at a hospital. The hospital has acknowledged in a statement that the fire happened but won’t offer specifics. The medical examiner’s office says the woman died from complications of thermal burns, and her death is listed as accidental. A copy of the article regarding the case can be found here.
As an experienced Baltimore, Maryland medical malpractice lawyer, I have successfully handled surgical fire and burn cases. For example, one was a case involving a fire during surgery where a man was severely burned and another involved a severe thermal burn that took place during surgery. Fires and unintended burns during surgery are completely preventable and perfect examples of malpractice. Surgeons and hospitals have known for decades how to prevent operating room fires and burns. Usually, it’s a simple as not using 100% oxygen, draping a patient properly or making sure that flammable skin prep solutions dry before using an electric cautery device. When a surgeon uses excessive oxygen or a patient is not properly draped, things that normally do not catch fire such as surgical drapes, skin and hair, can catch fire in an oxygen rich environment. In fact, I still have a video showing the difference between how surgical drapes catch fire normally (very slowly) compared to an oxygen rich environment (almost explosive). It’s shocking. To see some of the cases I have handled, click here.