Wednesday, January 18, 2006
CRUEL TWISTS OF FATE
A Reuters Oddly Enough News item mentioned a surgical mix-up in a South Korean hospital. Doctors removed part of the stomach of a patient due to have thyroid surgery, while removing the thyroid gland of another scheduled for stomach surgery. The mistake was discovered when the staff was filing post-operation paperwork for the two women who were both scheduled for surgery on that same day. Doctors later performed the correct surgical procedures on both women and re-attached the part of the stomach they had removed from the patient with the thyroid problem.
Besides this report by Reuters, there has been previous incidents of oversight we've already heard of such as surgeons leaving different items inside their patients (i.e., piece of gauze, small surgical instrument, and etc.).
And in some cases, although the surgery was successful, the post-operation procedures weren’t adhered to; hence, causing fatal effects such as what happened to Andy Warhol. He checked in at New York Hospital for a common gall bladder operation, but somehow never managed to check out alive.
The most horrific surgical foul-up I have ever heard of, which troubles me to this day whenever it comes to mind, occurred way back when I was still in college.
My girlfriend and I spent a weekend in Maryland with her uncle who was one of the two plastic surgeons affiliated with the local hospital. One evening, while her uncle and I were shooting pool after dinner, I asked him what life was like for a plastic surgeon in a small city. He told a few amusing stories. But after a couple of cocktails, he seemed comfortable enough to confide about a disturbing experience he had a couple of years earlier.
One summer, he was awakened in the middle of the night by a phone call from the hospital urging him to go in at once. When he asked where the other plastic surgeon on call that night, he was told that he was already with the administrator in the conference room with a patient’s family. He knew better than to inquire any further. The fact that the hospital administrator was there in the middle of the night was a bad enough sign that something gravely serious was going on.
He continued to tell me the rest of the story as if pained by it. It was a case that involved an infant whose penis was cut off due to a malfunction by the device used for circumcisions. The baby’s parents had no other choice but to accept the hospital’s multi-million dollar cash settlement, including at the hospital’s expense, all the life-long procedures involved in transforming the infant into a female.
I was too dumbfounded to press him on for details. He did, however, mumble a deep concern for the infant and the psychological trauma he was bound to endure. They were successful with the initial phases of the baby’s physical transformation, but there were more to follow as the baby gained in age. They were also cognizant of the infant’s psychological and emotional makeup remaining as those of a male. Indeed, there is not enough money in the world to assuage the spiritual pain that infant was destined to cope with later on in life.
This entry is not a statement against the shortcomings of the medical industry; rather, a mere discussion of mishaps—isolated cases for the most part—that were obviously not ill-intended by its practitioners.
Photo credit: Twilight Zone (episode 42), 1960
Labels: medical negligence
posted by Señor Enrique at 7:18 AM
- niceheart said...
There was an Oprah show about Medical Mistakes. There was an elderly man who woke up from surgery without his penis. There was also a guy whose wrong leg was cut off. The guest, Dr. Gupta, suggested that we should investigate our doctor's track record. Or use a marker to designate which part of the body should be cut. He also suggested that we should ask to have surgeries early in the morning or early in the week, when doctors are widely awake.
It's really sad that these mistakes happen and I don't think that any amount of money can compensate for the trauma that these blunders bring.
- Señor Enrique said...
I didn't see that particular show by Oprah, niceheart, but thank you for mentioning it.
I have quite a number of New York friends in the medical field and they would all make the worst patients -- they all dread the thought of being sick and hospitalized one day.
I also know of a group of doctors who would stay up playing mahjong all night long and then operate on patients the next day. One of them is an anesthesiologist. Scary, huh?
- Sidney said...
But the one who never makes an error should throw the first stone. Doctors & nurses are humans too!
- Kiss My Mike said...
Oh my, that must have been a terrible experience for everyone involved.
I feel so sorry for the medical practitioners who made the mistake, but I feel even more sorry for the poor infant whose life was changed forever.
- Señor Enrique said...
They certainly are, Sidney! All the more difficult for them since they deal with human lives.
This infant must be around your age by now, Mike. To this day, I feel bad for him every I think about it.