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Study Finds High Rates Of Breathing Tube Errors In Ambulances

Running ambulance

When an emergency responder, EMT, or paramedic misplaces a breathing tube (also known as an esophageal intubation), the results can be devastating. If the error is not recognized and corrected quickly enough, a misplaced breathing tube can quickly turn fatal, causing the patient to suffocate when air is routed to the stomach instead of the lungs.

Recently, ProPublica released a shocking report indicating that the rates of unrecognized esophageal intubation in Rhode Island may be much higher than previously realized. According to the research of Dr. Nick Asselin, an emergency room doctor, there have been at least 12 fatalities related to breathing tube errors in the last few years. A subsequent study also found that the rate of unrecognized esophageal intubation may reach as high as 4%.

With the evidence mounting, Rhode Island state health officials and emergency room doctors have attempted to find solutions to the problem. Recently, EMS officials have proposed limiting breathing tube placement to paramedics only, as they have the most advanced medical training among emergency responders. Unfortunately, the measure was shot down by the state’s advisory panel, after firefighters and other EMS practitioners actively fought against it.

When Can Victims Hold EMS Professionals Accountable?

Misplaced breathing tubes are considered to be a “never event” within the medical profession, meaning that it is extremely dangerous for the patient – and that there is no legitimate excuse for the mistake to occur. Because most states do not allow EMS professionals other than paramedics to place breathing tubes, it’s unclear at this time if unrecognized esophageal intubation is a common phenomenon across state lines.

However, any emergency responder who causes esophageal intubation could potentially be held legally liable for the victim’s losses. While the law recognizes that EMTs and paramedics work under considerable pressure and time constraints, there is no justification for losing a patient to a misplaced breathing tube.

At Brown & Barron, LLC, our Baltimore attorneys know how painful it can be for families to lose loved ones to medical malpractice. It may be challenging to pursue a legal claim against an emergency medical professional, but if your family member died because of negligence, you may be entitled to bring a lawsuit and ensure that future patients do not suffer the same fate.

Do you need to speak with our attorneys? Call (410) 698-1717 today for a free consultation.