Think you’re safe in the hands of your doctor? Well, that is usually true – but look at what can happen when the doctor goofs. Yikes!
10. Right Baby, Wrong Father
When Nancy Andrews, of Commack, N.Y., became pregnant after an in vitro fertilization procedure at a New York fertility clinic, she and her husband expected a beautiful new addition to their family. What they did not expect was a child whose skin was significantly darker than that of either parent. Subsequent DNA tests suggested that doctors at New York Medical Services for Reproductive Medicine accidentally used another man’s sperm.
The couple has since raised Baby Jessica (b. Oct. 19, 2004), as their own. But the couple still filed a malpractice suit against the owner of the clinic, as well as the embryologist who allegedly mixed up the samples.
9. Transplant Is Just the Wrong Type
This patient was given a new heart and lungs, then died. Seventeen year-old Jésica Santillán died 2 weeks after receiving the heart and lungs of a patient whose blood type did not match hers. Doctors at the Duke University Medical Center failed to check the compatibility before surgery began. Santillán, who had type-O blood, had received the organs from a type-A donor. After a rare second transplant operation to attempt to rectify the error, she suffered brain damage and complications that subsequently hastened her death.
The error sent the patient into a coma-like state, and she died shortly after an attempt to switch the organs back out for compatible ones failed. The hospital blamed human error for the death, along with a lack of safeguards to ensure a compatible transplant. Duke reached an agreement on an undisclosed settlement with the family. Neither the hospital nor the family is allowed to comment on the case.
8. Took the Wrong Nut
Surgeons mistakenly removed the healthy right testicle of 47-year-old Air Force veteran Benjamin Houghton. The patient had been complaining of pain and shrinkage of his left testicle so doctors decided to schedule surgery to remove it due to cancer fears. However, the veteran’s medical records suggest a series of missteps — from an error on the consent form to a failure on the part of medical personnel to mark the proper surgical site before the procedure. The error, which took place at the West Los Angeles VA Medical Center, spurred a $200,000 lawsuit from Houghton and his wife.
7. A Retractable Stomach Ache
Donald Church, 49, had a tumor in his abdomen when he arrived at the University of Washington Medical Center in Seattle in June 2000. When he left, the tumor was gone, but a metal retractor had taken its place. Doctors admitted to leaving the 13-inch-long retractor in Church’s abdomen by mistake. It was not the first such incident at the medical center; four other such occurrences had been documented at the hospital between 1997 and 2000. Fortunately, surgeons were able to remove the retractor shortly after it was discovered, and Church experienced no long-term health consequences from the mistake. The hospital agreed to pay Church $97,000.
6. Just Wanted To Have A Peek
Joan Morris (a pseudonym) is a 67-year-old woman admitted to a teaching hospital for cerebral angiography. She mistakenly underwent an invasive cardiac electrophysiology study. After angiography, the patient was transferred to another floor. Discharge was planned for the following day. The next morning, however, the patient was taken for a open heart procedure. The patient had been on the operating table for an hour. Doctors had made an incision in her groin, punctured an artery, threaded in a tube and snaked it up into her heart (a procedure with risks of bleeding, infection, heart attack and stroke). That was when the phone rang and a doctor from another department asked “what are you doing with my patient?”
There was nothing wrong with her heart. The cardiologist working on the woman checked her chart, and saw that he was making an awful mistake. She was returned to her room in stable condition.
5. Brain Surgery Boo-Boo…Again
For the third time on the same year, doctors at Rhode Island Hospital have operated on the wrong side of a patient’s head. The most recent incident occurred Nov. 23 2007. An 82-year-old woman required an operation to stop bleeding between her brain and her skull. A neurosurgeon at the hospital began a surgery by drilling the right side of the patient’s head, even though a CT scan showed bleeding on the left side, according to local reports. The resident reportedly caught his mistake early, after which he closed the initial hole and proceeded on the left side of the patient’s head. The patient was listed in fair condition on Sunday.
The case echoes of a similar mistake in February, in which a different doctor operated on the wrong side of a patient’s head. And in August, an 86-year-old man died three weeks after a surgeon at Rhode Island Hospital accidentally operated on the wrong side of his head.
4. Amputated the Wrong Leg
A Tampa (Florida) surgeon mistakenly removed the wrong leg of his patient, 52-year-old Willie King, during an amputation procedure in February 1995.
It was later revealed that a chain of errors before the surgery culminated in the wrong leg being prepped for the procedure. While the surgeon’s team realized in the middle of the procedure that they were operating on the wrong leg, it was already too late, and the leg was removed. As a result of the error, the surgeon’s medical license was suspended for six months and he was fined $10,000. University Community Hospital in Tampa, the medical center where the surgery took place, paid $900,000 to King and the surgeon involved in the case paid an additional $250,000 to King.
3. Two Kidneys, One Mistake
A patient was submitted at Park Nicollet Methodist Hospital in Minnesota to have one of his kidneys removed because it had a tumor believed to be cancerous. Instead, doctors removed the healthy one.
“The discovery that this was the wrong kidney was made the next day when the pathologist examined the material and found no evidence of any malignancy,” said Samuel Carlson, M.D. and Park Nicollet Chief Medical Officer. The potentially cancerous kidney remained intact and functioning.
2. Wide-Awake During Surgery
Imagine watching your surgeons work and not being able to make a sound or move a muscle. A West Virginia man’s family claims inadequate anesthetic during surgery allowed him to feel every slice of the surgeon’s scalpel – a trauma they believe led him to take his own life two weeks later.
A 73-year-old Baptist minister, Sherman Sizemore was admitted to Raleigh General Hospital in Beckley, W.Va., Jan. 19, 2006 for exploratory surgery to determine the cause of his abdominal pain. But during the operation, he reportedly experienced a phenomenon known as anesthetic awareness — a state in which a surgical patient is able to feel pain, pressure or discomfort during an operation, but is unable to move or communicate with doctors.
According to the complaint, anesthesiologists administered the drugs to numb the patient, but they failed to give him the general anesthetic that would render him unconscious until 16 minutes after surgeons first cut into his abdomen.
1. Successful Bypass Surgery…On the Wrong Artery
Two months after a double bypass heart operation that was supposed to save his life, comedian and former Saturday Night Live cast member Dana Carvey got some disheartening news: the cardiac surgeon had bypassed the wrong artery. It took another emergency operation to clear the blockage that was threatening to kill the 45-year-old funnyman and father of two young kids. Responding to a $7.5 million lawsuit Carvey brought against him, the surgeon said he’d made an honest mistake because Carvey’s artery was unusually situated in his heart. But Carvey didn’t see it that way: “It’s like removing the wrong kidney. It’s that big a mistake,” the entertainer told People magazine.