UCSD, anesthesiologist cleared of allegations the health system ignored physician fentanyl abuse

A San Diego jury has found the University of California San Diego Medical Center and former anesthesiologist Bradley Hay, MD, not guilty in a medical malpractice lawsuit filed by patient Randy Dalo and his wife Karen Dalo alleging that Mr. Dalo awakened during surgery due to insufficient amounts of anesthesia, according to a Feb. 16 report from the San Diego Union-Tribune. 

In January 2017, Mr. Dalo underwent neck surgery, claiming that during the surgery he had a dream and saw "three or four hazy shadows of people looming over him, then a bright light, and when he tried to scream, he could not." The lawsuit alleged that Mr. Dalo actually awakened during the procedure. 

Mr. Dalo also contended that the medical center falsified records to show that he was given the correct amount of anesthesia to undergo the procedure. 

The couple found out later that prior to the surgery, Dr. Hay, who was part of Mr. Dalo's procedural anesthesiology team, injected himself with opioids and was found unconscious on the hospital bathroom floor an hour after the procedure. 

The couple's lawsuit faults UC San Diego for allowing Dr. Hay to continue to work after being treated at a clinic for addiction a decade earlier.

On the stand, Dr. Hay admitted to relapsing and stealing medications from the hospital, but UCSD denied an alleged cover-up, saying the hospital had no knowledge of Dr. Hay's relapse. 

Dr. Hay surrendered his medical license in 2017, pleading guilty to a felony charge of acquiring controlled substances by fraud, according to the Union-Tribune. During the trial, he was described as a high-functioning addict by experts speaking for the defense.

The hospital lawyers contended that Mr. Dalo's dream was a remembrance of waking up in the recovery room. Medical records that monitor patient conditions during surgery showed that Mr. Dalo was never awakened during the procedure. 

Mr. Dalo's lawyer, Eugene Iredale, plans to motion for a new trial and appeal Mr. Dalo's case, the Union-Tribune reported. He also is pressing for a class-action lawsuit on behalf of 800 patients treated by Dr. Hay. 

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