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Two incidents involving anesthesia within the last two months, illustrate that anesthesia mistakes can be deadly when they occur, despite the medical profession’s efforts to prevent them. At the end of September, a 5 year old girl died at the dentist’s office, where she had gone for routine filling and capping of teeth. The child never awoke.

Although the facts are not definitively known as yet, the girl may have been given a combination of sedatives too powerful and unusual for a child so young. While anesthesia is typically associated with hospitals, a lot of it is administered in doctors’ and dentists’ offices, where training may be inadequate, where monitoring of the patient will be less thorough than in a hospital, and where emergency response will be more limited in the event of a mistake or unexpected reaction by the patient. The second incident, occurring in October, shows that a hospital setting is no absolute protection from anesthesia error. An 18 year old woman in labor with her first child, was administered 10 hours of an epidural painkiller in just one hour. The mistake was attributed to an improperly programmed pump. The mistake, which the hospital admitted, left the woman paralyzed. She had regained some use of her legs – the ultimate outcome is unknown.

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