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Woman files malpractice suit after catching fire during birth

A medical malpractice lawsuit has been filed by a woman who caught on fire while she was on the operating table giving birth to her daughter via Cesarean section. The incident took place on March 1, 2010, shortly after her attending physician had made an incision. The anesthetic evidently caught fire due to a spark from a surgical tool, setting her abdomen ablaze.

Although she was sedated, she was able to smell something burning, and her mother, who was present, observed some smoke. The obstetrician paused in performing the operation to use his hand to put out some small flames on the woman's left side.

The birth of the woman's daughter continued, and the child was healthy and unharmed. The new mother, on the other hand, suffered a third-degree burn 7 inches long and 5 inches wide on her side. She says the injury was extremely painful. A plastic surgeon who examined said it was similar to wounds found on napalm victims.

The mother is 42 and a professor of business at a major university. Her lawsuit seeks damages from both the obstetrician and the hospital where the incident occurred. She argues that they neglected to pay attention to a recommendation by the manufacturer of the antiseptic that was put on her skin before the surgery. Because that antiseptic is alcohol-based, a number of safety precautions are indicated to avoid just the kind of fire that occurred.

Several nurses and the anesthesiologist stated that they had not been aware of the possible problem and had never been trained in the precautions to take. The antiseptic is known as DuraPrep and is made by 3M, which the mother does not blame for the incident.

It seems reasonable that when performing any medical procedure, doctors and nurses should be aware of all the warnings and indications of the products and devices they're using. Those who neglect to study this information should expect a medical malpractice suit when things go wrong and injury or death happens as a result.

Source: Syracuse.com, "Woman's abdomen catches fire during C-section, as surgical tool ignites antiseptic," John O'Brien, April 1, 2012

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