Doctors are people too, and they can make mistakes just like anyone else. Thing is, they are usually dealing with much more serious matters where mistakes can have big impacts. Have a look for yourself; check out a few of the crazy things that can go wrong.
10. Amputation Error
Perhaps the least we can expect from doctors is to know their left from their right. Sadly, the surgeon for Willie King in Tampa, Florida was apparently confused between his two sides when the 52-year-old went to have his right foot amputated in 1995. King awoke post-op to discover that the surgeon had taken the wrong leg. Problem not solved. To make matters worse, it was reportedly obvious which foot was troubling King since his right foot had visible tissue deterioration, sores, and gangrene. As it turned out, both of King’s legs were diseased and the left foot would have been amputated eventually, but that did not make the matter less awful.
King received $900,000 from the hospital and an additional $250,000 from the surgeon, who had his medical license suspended for six months and was fined $10,000. The incident did cause the hospital to put a variety of measures to double check for correct procedures.
9. Death by Radiation
Radiation has always been a double-edged sword. Its discovery brought Marie Curie the Nobel Prize, but it also caused her death in 1934. Radiation is often used as a cancer remedy, but like any other medical device, it must be used carefully and cautiously. Sadly, the chemotherapy of Scott Jerome-Parks was neither careful nor cautious. Jerome-Parks required treatment for tongue cancer, but medical staff in a New York City hospital did not notice a computer error that caused the radiation to be targeted on the 43-year-old’s brain stem and neck. These off target beams of radiation went on for three days.
As Scott Jerome-Parks lay dying, he clung to this wish: that his fatal radiation overdose — which left him deaf, struggling to see, unable to swallow, burned, with his teeth falling out, with ulcers in his mouth and throat, nauseated, in severe pain and finally unable to breathe — be studied and talked about publicly so that others might not have to live his nightmare.
8. Cleaning Fluid
Medical practitioners should be used to reading the fine print. As patients who get those tiny bottles of pills know, there is an endless amount of fine print and detail. Yet, doctors don’t always read the label and that can cause problems. As with a doctor at the Virginia Mason Medical Center, who filled a syringe that was supposed to be used for a harmless dye with disinfectant solution. The patient, Mary McClinton, passed away because of the mistake. The 69-year-old’s death was prior to routine surgery for a brain aneurysm.
The accident caused the hospital to change their labeling system and use a gel disinfectant, but these changes came about through the hardest of lessons.
7. Towel in the Bowel
In January 2011, doctors in a Chhattisgarh town, India, relieved a woman of three years of severe stomach pain after they removed a towel stuck inside her bowel after she delivered by Cesarean section.
Sabnam’s husband said that his wife had been in unbearable pain for the past three years (since giving birth) and finally got relief after the surgery. Doctors said that the towel had got stuck with the intestine and a part of it had actually began to rot.
The couple plan to file a case against the doctor in Ambikapur who delivered the baby.
6. Got Metal?
After going through surgery to remove a cancerous tumour, Donald Church complained about the pain. He said it was unbearable, but doctors said this was to be expected after major surgery. Ok – sounds reasonable. But then, why did he set off the metal detector at an airport?? True.
Well, it turns out that he did indeed have metal – a little souvenir from his operation. Turns out that there was a 32cm metal tool still inside when the doctors sewed him shut after surgery. Normal practice is to count up the surgical instruments before “closing” the patient to make sure none is missing. However, in this case, a “malleable retractor” – normally used to hold open the wound so that surgeons can reach in, was somehow overlooked.
And how was this discovered? By follow up with this surgeon? Nope – eventually, his family doctor detected an oddly-shaped lump during a routine examination. An x-ray clearly showed the presence of the steel rod, and a second operation was carried out to remove it.
5. Feeding the Lungs
In 2006, 79-year-old Eugene “Gene” Riggs Jr was admitted to the Brooke Army Medical Center in Texas with stomach pains. The doctors’ initial diagnosis was that they suspected that Riggs was suffering from an intestinal-related ailment, and because the doctors feared that Riggs was not getting enough nutrition, they ordered a feeding tube. He ended up dying there — after a feeding tube was mistakenly inserted into his right lung. It was supposed to go into his stomach. The tube was left there for nine hours, filling his lung with the food that should have gone into his stomach.
4. Fertilization Fail
When a husband and wife make the decision to try in vitro fertilization, it generally means that they have tried many other avenues to have a child. Thomas and Nancy Andrews had difficulties bringing a second child into the world, so they went to New York Medical Services for Reproductive Medicine. The process was successful, but the happy parents were confused and upset when their child was born with darker than both parents. This wasn’t a case of recessive genes coming to the fore, but a big mess for the now defunct clinic.
DNA tests confirmed that the clinic had used another man’s sperm to inseminate Mrs. Andrews. While the New York State Supreme Court threw out parts of the Andrews’ lawsuit against the clinic, the malpractice suit was allowed to continue. The Andrews have raised baby Jessica, who was born in October of 2004, as their own.
3. Transplant Tragedy
Patients needing transplant surgery are already in bad shape, but the story of Jesica Santillan from 2003 shows that doctors can actually make things worse. The 17-year-old Mexican immigrant had moved to the United States to seek treatment for a life-threatening heart condition.
She went to Duke University Hospital to receive a heart transplant as well as a double lung transplant. Santillan was given organs from a donor who had Type A blood, but she had Type O. Her body rejected the new organs and she went into a coma. Another surgery was performed to give her organs of the appropriate blood type, but it was too late. She died shortly after the second surgery. The family and the hospital settled the case for an undisclosed amount, and neither side is allowed to comment on the case.
As in above cases, the tragedy caused the university to change their policies to ensure patient safety, which is the slight silver lining in such an awful case.
2. Whoops, Wrong Eye
Just to show that medical mishaps are not just a thing of the present, we can go back to the 19th century. In 1892, ten-year-old Thomas Stewart of Montreal, Quebec lost the sight in one of his eyes after being struck by a penknife.
Dr. Alexander Proudfoot believed that in order to save the eye with sight, he had to remove the blind eye. The operation took place at the Stewarts’ residence, all went well until Proudfoot discovered he had removed the wrong eye. As a result Stewart lived blind for the rest of his life.
1. Slice and Dice
Dr. Naum Ciomu, a Romanian surgeon, lost his temper during surgery in 2004 and sliced his patient’s penis off.
Ciomu was operating on 36-year-old Nelu Radonescu to correct a testicular malformation. Not only did Ciomu slice the male organ off, but proceeded to chop it to small pieces in front of a stunned nursing staff. His staff said that the doctor had been under stress and lost his temper when he accidentally cut the patient’s urinary channel.
Ciomu had his medical license suspended, and a Romanian court awarded Radonescu with 20,000 pounds for penis reconstruction (using tissue from his arm) as well as 100,000 pounds in damages.