Fiery tonsil lawsuit goes to court

September 10, 2008 8:33:09 PM PDT
It was a sensational story five years ago when it happened - a child goes to the hospital to get his tonsils removed but his breathing tube catches fire. Now the lawsuit filed by his family is finally going to trial.

"My parents told me I was going to get a Popsicle afterwards," eight-year-old Andrew Garcia said.

That's the last thing Garcia remembers before he was anesthesized for a tonsillectomy in April 2003.

The doctor inserted an electro-cauterizing device to remove his tonsils. A breathing tube pushing oxygen and anesthesia was also in his throat.

Suddenly, the breathing tube caught fire.

"And just very quickly fire erupts because 100 percent oxygen is going down the tube into this child's lung," Garcia family attorney Joe Carcione Jr. said.

The surgical staff extinguished the fire, but over 40 percent of Garcia's upper airway was burned.

Garcia is now 13-years-old and continues to suffer pulmonary problems. He has also developed a new medical condition, which is caused by the lack of oxygen, Carcione said.

San Jose Medical Center, where Garcia had the procedure performed, is now closed, but the doctor wrote in his incident report that Garcia was deprived of oxygen for only about 15 seconds.

But when he began deposition interviews for the lawsuit, Carcione said he found it was longer.

"We unquestionably found that it was minutes that were involved that this boy was given little or no oxygen," he said.

In the lawsuit, Carcione maintains the medical device that caught fire has a design flaw. The family wants the device taken off the market.

But he maker of the device Conmed said in its incident report that the operator's manual warns never to perform electrosurgery, such as the tonsillectomy, where there is an abundance of oxygen.

The doctor's attorney declined to comment, and when ABC7 called the attorney representing Conmed, she responded by asking the judge to stop the media from covering the trial. Conmed's attorney went on to file a motion asking for, not only a gag order to prevent attorneys from talking to the media, but specifically mentioning ABC7.

Garcia's father still wonders how a simple tonsillectomy could go so wrong.

"I took my son in to improve his lifestyle and ended up damaging him for life," Paul Garcia said.

As for Garcia, his tonsils are still there ? and he is too scared to have them removed.

Related Link:
THE BACK STORY: Trial issues for the Garcia case


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