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Lawsuit: Anesthesia Mistake Caused Suicide

The family of a pastor who killed himself after he underwent surgery while experiencing anesthesia awareness has filed a lawsuit against Raleigh Anesthesia Associates.

The suit claims that the anesthesiologist and the nurse anesthetist failed to properly anesthetize Sherman Sizemore during his surgery, and as a result, he was paralyzed, but aware during the procedure. This caused him to develop post-traumatic stress disorder and eventually kill himself, the suit states.

Anesthesia Awareness

Sizemore’s death is likely to draw attention to the little-known phenomenon known as anesthesia awareness.

In most cases, the patient is only conscious momentarily, but occasionally, a patient remains conscious for large sections of time. In these cases, post-traumatic stress disorder is common, according to experts.

“It’s the first time I know of anyone succeeding in taking their own lives because of this, but suicidal thoughts are not all that uncommon,” said president of Anesthesia Awareness Campaign, Carol Weihrer.

The Incident

According to the suit, Sizemore went to Raleigh General Hospital for surgery to diagnose the reason behind his abdominal pain.

The anesthesiologist and a nurse anesthetist working for Raleigh Anesthesia Associates administered paralyzing drugs to keep his body still during the procedure, but they failed to give him general anesthesia to make him unconscious until about half an hour into the procedure.

He was aware during the procedure, but he couldn’t move or speak, the suit claims. The suit further claims that Sizemore was not told whether he had been properly anesthetized and as a result, suffered emotional torment as he doubted whether his memories were real.

The suit claims that Sizemore was thoroughly disturbed by the incident. He could not sleep, he refused to be left alone, he suffered nightmares, and he complained that people were trying to bury him alive. He eventually killed himself on Feb. 2, 2006.

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