Suit was brought by patient who moved twice during cataract surgery, causing complications.
CLEARED A jury agreed that keeping the patient still during cataract surgery wasn’t ophthalmologist Michael DellaVecchia’s responsibility.
A Philadelphia-area ophthalmologist who was accused of negligence has been cleared, thanks to a simple defense often heard outside the courtroom: It’s not my job.
The job in question? Making sure the patient was adequately anesthetized.
The case was brought by a woman who twice made sudden movements while having cataract surgery. After the first movement, the procedure was paused and a CRNA augmented her IV anesthesia. When the operation resumed, she unexpectedly moved again, causing the intraocular lens haptic to break and the IOL to fall toward the back of her eye. She was immediately referred to a retinal specialist in the same suite, who removed the IOL and placed another.
She later sued, claiming physical and emotional damages, pain and discomfort in her eye, blurred vision, chronic macular edema, long-term risk for detached retina and depth perception, and peripheral vision problems, among other complaints.
But after initially naming all the doctors involved in the case, she ultimately decided not to sue the supervising anesthesiologist or the CRNA. Instead, she sued Michael DellaVecchia, MD, who had supervised the surgery, and Kristina Pao, MD, a third-year resident who’d performed it. Rather than risk a trial, Dr. Pao settled to resolve the claim against her.
But the patient’s claim that she was injured because she had not been adequately anesthetized provided what Dr. DellaVecchia’s lawyers called a “simple” defense. They explained to the jury that he “does not have any training or expertise in anesthesia,” can’t “ensure that a patient is ‘adequately anesthetized'” and “cannot legally be held responsible for the alleged failure of anesthesia.” He could only rely on the expertise of the anesthesia providers, the lawyers said.
The jury agreed, unanimously finding that there was no negligence on the part of Dr. DellaVecchia.