Medical Malpractice and Personal Injury Law Blog

Doctors Cut Off the Wrong Body Part

Posted by Briggs Bedigian | Jul 21, 2016 | 0 Comments

Hearing a news report of a doctor or surgeon removing the wrong body part is enough to make us cringe. It may seem unbelievable that a doctor could make such a drastic mistake by not following simple procedures to ensure they are operating on the right part of the body. However, what is really shocking is how often these types of mistakes occur. In some cases, the doctors try and blame someone else for the mistake, or try and cover it up.

Dr. Rolando R. Sanchez removed the wrong leg of his patient in Tampa, Florida. After he lost his license to practice medicine, he claimed that other hospital personnel had made a series of errors that led to the mistaken amputation. Dr. Sanchez said the wrong leg had been prepped, and the hospital computer system and operating room schedule also listed the wrong leg. However, Dr. Sanchez still had the last clear chance to make sure it was the correct leg before he cut it off.

According to a CNN article, over a period of just over 6 years, doctors in Colorado operated on the wrong part of a patient's body more than 100 times. Dr. Martin Makary, M.D., a professor of surgery and public health at Johns Hopkins University says these kind of catastrophic surgical errors are “a lot more common than the public thinks.”

A 54-year-old Las Vegas man went into the hospital for surgery to clean up the cartilage in his right knee. However, when he woke up after surgery, he noticed the bandages were on his left knee. When he asked the nurse why the bandages were on the wrong knee, the surgeon admitted the mistake and asked if the man wanted surgery on the right knee as well. Far from apologizing, the doctor and anesthesiologist joked about the mistake, saying the man was getting a “two-for-one,” yet they billed his insurance for both surgeries.

The problem is not just an American one. Researchers in the UK found that wrong-site surgeries have continued to rise. The most common mistakes included removing the wrong teeth. However, other cases have included removing a healthy kidney instead of the diseased one, drilling neurosurgery holes in the wrong side of a patient's head, and lung transplants with the wrong blood type.

In one case, a medical student told the doctor mid-surgery that he was taking out the wrong kidney, yet the doctor carried on. It was only after a healthy kidney was removed that the doctor realized the mistake. The man had been left with only a diseased kidney, and died within the month. The surgeon was later accused of manslaughter.

A 43-year-old woman was told she had a life-threatening infection, and the only way to save her life was to amputate her diseased leg. After she had her right leg amputated above the knee, she asked for the results of the operation. When the consultant refused to give the woman the test results, she knew something was wrong. It turned out the doctors found that there was no evidence of the rare bone infection, and had removed the leg by mistake.

If you or a loved one has been injured as the result of a medical error, the Gilman & Bedigian team is fully equipped to handle the complex process of filing a malpractice claim. Our staff, including a physician and attorneys with decades of malpractice litigation experience, will focus on getting you compensated, so you can focus on healing and moving forward.

About the Author

Briggs Bedigian

H. Briggs Bedigian (“Briggs”) is a founding partner of Gilman & Bedigian, LLC.  Prior to forming Gilman & Bedigian, LLC, Briggs was a partner at Wais, Vogelstein and Bedigian, LLC, where he was the head of the firm's litigation practice.  Briggs' legal practice is focused on representing clients involved in medical malpractice and catastrophic personal injury cases. 

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