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Technology and Anesthesia Practice

The following discussion has been adapted from Richards and Walter (1989).

The increase in medical malpractice litigation was difficult for physicians and devastating for anesthesia machine manufacturers. In the late 1970s, products liability claims against anesthesia machine manufacturers threatened to destroy the industry. The impact of these claims was harsh because the industry is very small and machines are relatively inexpensive. Since the industry did not have the capacity to absorb multimillion-dollar losses, it became impossible for the manufacturers to afford products liability insurance.

Ironically, few claims actually involved defective equipment. Most of the claims were based on the equipment manufacturer's failure to make their machines error-proof. The manufacturers complained that they never intended their machines to be used by nonprofessionals, but the lack of standards in pre-1986 anesthesia practice prevented the courts from finding that anesthesiologists were learned intermediaries.*

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