Family Sues Over Boy's Tonsillectomy Fire

Patient injured during routine surgery-- could it happen to you?

ByABC News
September 11, 2008, 4:30 PM

Sept. 12, 2008— -- A California family is suing doctors and the makers of a surgical tool after a breathing tube caught fire and injured a boy during a routine tonsillectomy.

As first reported by ABC News affiliate KGO San Francisco, Andrew Garcia, then 8, suffered extensive burns to his mouth and throat and other injuries after a breathing tube suddenly caught on fire during surgery.

Andrew now has trouble breathing, said his lawyer, Joe Carcione. For his family, it was a horrifying end to a procedure that was supposed to help Andrew sleep and breathe better.

"I took my son to improve his lifestyle and [it] ended up damaging him for life," Andrew's father, Paul Garcia, told KGO.

Carcione claims the electrocauterizing device used to perform the surgery is defective and should be banned from operating rooms.

He says that the heated device burned through a breathing tube and ignited the oxygen and anesthesia being sent into the boy's lungs.

"You're working with hot devices right next to 100 percent oxygen," Carcione said. "It's the perfect environment for a catastrophe."

There are about 550 operating room fires each year, according to Mark Bruley, vice president for accident and forensic investigation at the ECRI Institute, a health care research organization. About 20 to 30 cause serious injury.

The hospital where the surgery was performed has since shut down. According to KGO, at the time, the hospital apologized to the Garcia family but said proper safety precautions had been taken. A lawyer for the doctor who performed the surgery declined to comment.