Woman wakes up during surgery: $150,000 verdict

Anesthesiologist acknowledges drug ran out

A jury has awarded a Virginia woman $150,000 after she woke up during surgery and had to endure the 45-minute procedure while paralyzed but able to feel all the sensations of having her ovaries removed.

Forty-eight-year-old Jeannie Smith won her malpractice case against anesthesiologist David Carney, MD, in Newport News Circuit Court on July 17. She had sought a $1 million judgment. Smith's attorney, David Walsh, JD, of Fairfax, VA, tells Healthcare Risk Management that Smith woke up during the surgery on Dec. 18, 1995, to find a bright light shining in her face.

She had a breathing tube down her throat and still was under the control of the paralyzing agent administered by the anesthesiologist, so she could not move or do anything else to let the surgical team know that she was awake. She told the jury she could feel every sensation of being cut and stitched during the procedure, saying the pain was indescribable.

The anesthesiologist acknowledged that, unbeknownst to him, the anesthetic being administered to Smith ran out during the procedure. The anesthesiologist's attorney did not return a phone call from Healthcare Risk Management.