Defense Verdict In Patient’s Fatal Post-Op Aspiration Case

On Sept. 30, 2013, Dawn Pugar, 52, underwent hip surgery. The procedure was performed by an orthopedist, Dr. Dale Yakish, assisted by an anesthesiologist, Dr. Brett Anderson…, Doctors Rejected Blame for Patient’s Fatal Post-Op Aspiration


In the hours following Pugar’s discharge from the recovery room, her diet was progressively advanced from ice chips, to gelatin to soda. While eating her dinner, Pugar choked. Nurses attempted the Heimlich maneuver but were unsuccessful, and Pugar aspirated.


She resultantly suffered respiratory and cardiac arrest. She was resuscitated, but died 16 days later. Pugar’s widower, Joseph Pugar, sued Yakish and others.


The lawsuit alleged that Anderson and Yakish failed to properly treat Dawn Pugar, and that the doctors’ failure constituted malpractice. The estate’s expert orthopedist faulted Yakish for not consulting a neurologist prior to Pugar’s surgery, and not administering a swallowing test before Pugar’s diet was advanced in light of her preexisting myotonic dystrophy and a 2010 aspiration incident.


The defense’ expert orthopedist opined that Yakish, prior to the surgery, needed only to consult with Pugar ’s primary care physician – which he did – to obtain medical clearance for the surgery. It was not necessary for Yakish to consult a neurologist, the expert contended.


Yakish’s expert neurologist opined that Pugar’s myotonic dystrophy had no bearing on her ability to swallow and that her aspiration event in 2010 did not mean she was vulnerable to future aspiration caused by difficulty swallowing.


The jury rendered a defense verdict.


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