SHERMAN LAW NEWS | AUSTIN, TEXAS (September 3, 2021)
Greater Austin Pain Center, a clinic that treats chronic pain patients in Kyle, Dripping Springs, and Austin, Texas, is being sued for medical malpractice for overdosing a Wimberly woman. The supervising anesthesiologist, Kristin Jarzombek, M.D., and clinic owner Alan Silberberg, M.D., are denying any wrongdoing despite using untrained and unlicensed medical assistants to administer powerful opioids.
Sara Dishman is a 50-year old mother and educator who suffers from chronic pain. Sara started treating at Greater Austin Pain Center in late December 2020.
On January 28, 2021, during what should have been a routine back injection of the pain medication Fentanyl, the treating anesthesiologist, Kristin Jarzombek, M.D. made the reckless decision to have an untrained and unlicensed medical assistant insert the needle and manage the flow of opioids to Ms. Dishman while she was attending to other work. Ms. Dishman had not treated with Dr. Jarzombek before this time and was unaware of her use of unlicensed medical assistants.
Prior to the injection, Ms. Dishman's vital signs were normal. During the injection, Ms. Dishman's respirations became extremely depressed as she was slowly being overdosed by the medical assistant. Opioids are extremely dangerous and affect the part of the brain that controls breathing. If opioid levels in the blood are too high, breathing can slow down to dangerous levels, which can cause death. Due to the highly toxic and deadly nature, opioids must be administered only by an anesthesiologist or specialized nurse with advanced training known as a nurse anesthetist. There are no exceptions.
Ms. Dishman's vitals were not checked again until she was overdosed and did not wake up. The vitals were recorded only after exigent efforts were instituted to resuscitate Ms. Dishman. Ms. Dishman suffered an acute respiratory failure requiring staff to initiate physical sternum rubs (with bare knuckles) to her chest coupled with the opioid reversal drug, Naloxone a medicine that rapidly reverses an opioid overdose. Naloxone is mostly used in emergencies situations to prevent death by opioid overdose. Luckily, Ms. Dishman did not die. If she had been a high risk patient such as one with any type of respiratory issues, asthma or COPD for example, the outcome might have been different. Today she is left with the emotional trauma of the experience, for which she is seeking trauma focused therapy. In 20 years of chronic pain management, she has never been through something like this. For her, it was truly traumatic and life changing.
Following the overdose, Ms. Dishman sought answers from the Greater Austin Pain Center and its doctors. She had to piece the events together by herself because no one told her she was overdosed. Medical ethics require that physicians who make medical errors promptly notify the patient. This was not done by the physicians at Greater Austin Pain Center. Ms. Dishman had three meetings with clinic doctors and they never would tell her exactly what went wrong and would not promptly release her medical records. To date, they have not accepted responsibility.
Pain management is big business in the United States with as much as 20% of the U.S. adult population seeking treatment for pain. With this kind of demand, there is an opportunity for physicians to make big bucks. Most state laws prohibit pain management doctors from delegating the duty of administering powerful drugs to hourly medical assistants, but unfortunately some do to increase profits. In Texas, this practice violates the Texas Medical Practices Act which prohibits Texas licensed physicians from delegating non-delegable tasks, such as back injections with powerful narcotics, to unlicensed staff. The obvious concern is that medical assistants do not have the skill, experience, or training to determine if a patient, such as Ms. Dishman, is experiencing problems during the treatment.
The Texas Medical Board (TMB) is the state agency charged with keeping Texas patients safe through the licensure and regulation of Texas physicians. The TMB investigates instances of physician misconduct such as this and disciplines physicians whose practices and conduct endanger patients and the public. The TMB is currently investigating this matter.
Stephanie Sherman is an experienced personal injury attorney who pursues medical negligence cases nationwide against negligent anesthesiologists and pain management doctors and Clinics that endanger the lives of their patients and cause harm. If you would like a no cost case review, please contact Sherman Law, P.C.