Laser Spine Institute, anesthesiologist held liable for 2014 patient death — 8 insights

A jury awarded $20 million to the family of a patient who died hours after being discharged from Laser Spine Institute, The Legal Intelligencer reports.

Here are eight insights.

1. Anesthesiologist Glenn Rubenstein, MD, treated Sharon Kimble at the Tampa, Fla.-based Laser Spine Institute's Philadelphia center in January 2014.

2. The surgery center allegedly discharged Ms. Kimble while she still had a significant amount of Dilaudid in her system and instructed her to take additional pain medication.

3. The plaintiff's pretrial memo said medical staff discharged Ms. Kimble two hours after the procedure.

4. Ms. Kimble, who was 50 years old at the time, underwent the procedure for chronic back pain that she'd been treating with narcotic pain medication for seven years.

5. Ms. Kimble received a dosage of Dilaudid that was six times higher than the amount originally ordered. Dr. Rubenstein said the dosage was necessary due to the patient's high tolerance to pain medication. Ms. Kimble later died while recovering from the procedure in a nearby hotel.

6. Laser Spine Institute's defense argued that Ms. Kimble's husband was partially at fault for failing to pay close attention to his wife after surgery.

7. Anesthesiology expert James Noone, MD, testified that Ms. Kimble's husband failed to follow the discharge instructions he had signed. Dr. Noone said if Mr. Kimble had properly monitored his wife, he would have noticed her gradually increasing drowsiness, diminishing breathing rate and decreasing responsiveness.

The death likely could have prevented if Mr. Kimble had recognized these signs — and ensured Ms. Kimble was lying on her back, as opposed to the face-down position in which she was discovered — and called emergency services, according to Dr. Noone.

8. The jury found Laser Spine Institute 65 percent liable and Dr. Rubenstein 35 percent liable after less than 90 minutes of deliberation.

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