German surgeons operate on woman’s bowels instead of leg

By | March 22, 2008
surgury.jpgWhen it comes to a surgical mistake, this incident may take the cake: A 78-year-old German woman went into the hospital last month to have surgery on her leg. Because of a mixup, Frankenpost reports that she left the Hochfranken-Klinik in Münchberg, Germany, with an artificial anus.The paper says some members of the surgical team have been punished in connection with the series of mistakes that led them to operate on the wrong patient. Prosecutors are said to be looking into the incident. As for the unidentified patient, she still needs knee surgery and plans to file a lawsuit.

By the way, there is such a thing as an “artificial anus.” Shosaburo Abe and Yoshikatsu Abe filed a patent application in 1991.

Here are some of the headlines we came across while researching this posting:
Bit of a bummer
Pensioner gets bum’s rush on op
Leg operation turns into a pain in the A..
Hey doc, leave my butt alone!
Leg op woman gets bum deal

The headlines make light of the woman’s misfortune, but medical errors are a real problem in the USA and other countries.

In 1999, the Institute of Medicine reported that mistakes caused the deaths of between 44,000 and 98,000 hospital patients each year. Last Sunday, CBS News spoke with actor Dennis Quaid about the medication errors that almost killed his newborn twins.

Today, the Mercury News reports that an 87-year-old woman died at a Fremont, Calif., hospital after staff gave her four drugs that had been prescribed for other patients. State officials imposed tough sanctions in that case. In Sacramento, the Bee says another hospital was also fined $25,000 because employees gave a 29-year-old woman the wrong medicine and administered 10 times the prescribed dose of an anti-psychotic drug.

Earlier this week, a Canadian group announced new national guidelines designed to protect patients from medical mistakes.

“Experts say open and timely disclosure will help reduce medical errors in hospitals and are calling for a clear and consistent approach across the country,” The Toronto Star reports. “For example, the guidelines advise hospitals to tell a patient if there was a ‘close call’ involving their care where ongoing safety is concerned. They also advise against using the word ‘error’ in relaying a medical mishap to a patient because usually the harm involves ‘a series of failures.'”

Update at 2:10 p.m. ET: Thanks to reader Northern-voice for pointing us to this story in the Star Tribune, which recounts the experiences of a woman who was left with a cancerous kidney after surgeons removed the wrong one during an operation at Methodist Hospital.

“We feel just profoundly responsible for this,” Dr. Samuel Carlson, an executive with the company that owns the hospital, tells the paper. -usatoday

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