Doctors Cleared of Wrongdoing in Death of Teenager from Reaction to Anesthesia
As a Deerfield Beach medical malpractice attorney, I have followed with interest the case of Stephanie Kuleba. The Boca Raton teenager died in 2008 at the age of 18 from a rare but serious reaction to anesthesia used in her breast implant surgery. Now, according to a Sept. 27 article from the Associated Press, recently obtained documents show that the Florida Department of Health has cleared the two doctors involved, surgeon Steven Schuster and anesthesiologist Peter Warheit, citing “insufficient evidence.” Parents Joanne and Tom Kuleba are working to continue that investigation, and have also sued the doctors for medical malpractice.
Stephanie Kuleba died of a condition called malignant hyperthermia, which interferes with the body’s ability to supply oxygen and regulate body temperature. It is triggered by routine use of general anesthesia, but only in the relatively small number of people who are genetically susceptible to malignant hyperthermia. When doctors notice a patient under anesthesia displaying symptoms of the condition, they can treat it by administering a drug called dantrolene. The Kulebas contend that Schuster and Warheit took too long to notice that Stephanie was suffering from malignant hyperthermia, and administered too little dantrolene when they did notice. She died of cardiac arrest on the way to the hospital.
The Kulebas are fighting privacy rules and red tape to reopen the investigation with more information. But as a Hialeah medical malpractice lawyer, I am glad that they also have a concurrent malpractice lawsuit. While an administrative or criminal investigation can bolster the evidence in a lawsuit, they are completely separate cases. The existence or outcome of one has no effect on the others. In fact, while administrative and criminal probes may bring wrongdoers to justice, only a civil case can compensate families financially for the expensive medical treatment that many victims of malpractice need. Even if the Kulebas or other families in their terrible position can’t get an investigation opened by the state, they can still demand justice through a civil lawsuit.
Cohn, Smith & Cohn represents families that have lost loved ones or suffered grave injuries because of mistakes by medical professionals. Medical malpractice is not a lightly used term; it applies only to mistakes so severe that they fall below the accepted standards of the medical community in South Florida. Our Aventura medical malpractice attorneys work hard to document and prove that those standards were breached in all medical malpractice cases we take, using medical and financial experts whenever necessary. Our goal is always to get our clients the money they need to treat their malpractice-induced injuries, compensate them for their losses and return as much as possible to their lives.
If you or a loved one was hurt by a mistake by a doctor, hospital or other medical provider, Cohn, Smith & Cohn can help. To set up a free, confidential consultation, please contact us online or call (954) 431-8100.