You don’t have to be a fan of medical television shows like ER, House, Grey’s Anatomy or Scrubs in order to know that there are mistakes made in the operating or emergency room of a hospital.
The truth is that when a mistake is made within the halls of a medical institution, they usually result to an injury or worse – the death of a patient.
Although those who are in the medical profession take every step that they can to ensure that errors are not committed within the four walls of the hospital – some mistakes are still committed due to one reason or another.
Fortunately, the advancements in medical technology over the years have prevented these mistakes from being prevalent in the community.
But what if a mistake just cannot be helped? Here, we will take a look at what happens when the healing process goes wrong.
The Top 10 Unbelievable Mistakes Ever Made in the Medical Community
No matter what the reason is for a patient going under the knife or being in the operating room, the hope is that he or she will get better right after the operation. But when something goes seriously wrong with a process which is supposed to heal a patient, the results are less than satisfactory.
1. Accidental overdose of newborn twins.
On November 21, 2007, a moment that should have been precious for actor Dennis Quaid and his wife Kimberly Buffington turned into a nightmare with one seemingly minor medical mistake – which had grave consequences.
The couple welcomed their twin babies Thomas Boone and Zoe Grace but on that date, the twins were admitted to the neonatal intensive care unit at the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.
Instead of just giving the children 10 units per millimeter of the blood-thinning drug Heparin, the patients received 10,000 units.
Clearly, this is an error that could have been prevented – but the sad fact is that they do happen.
2. “Doc, you removed the wrong leg!”
This line may sound like a skit from Saturday Night Live, but it’s actually something which happened in real life. In what is perhaps the most publicized medical mistakes ever made, it’s the case of 52-year old patient Willie King.
Instead of the patient’s bum leg being amputated, it was the healthier leg which was prepped for the procedure. It was only during the middle of the procedure that the surgeon and his team realized that they were removing the wrong leg – and by then, it was already too late. [Leg amputation]
This medical mistake caused the surgeon his medical license to be suspended for half a year, and he also got a hefty fine of $10,000.
3. “Uhm – are those our kids?”
There’s a couple in New York who went for in vitro fertilization, but when the twins were born, their skin were significantly darker than that of their parents.
It turned out that another man’s sperm – instead of the husband’s – was used to inseminate the eggs during the procedure.
4. “Oops… is it the left side or the right side of the head?”
Medical mistakes can probably be forgiven if they occurred once or twice – but thrice? This is exactly what happened at the Rhode Island Hospital whose surgeons have operated on the wrong side of a patient’s head – for the third time within the year 2007.
The case is that of an 82-year old woman who has an internal bleeding between the brain and the skull. The surgeon began operating on the right side of the head – although the CT scan showed that the bleeding occurred on the left side of the patient’s head.
It’s a good thing that the surgeon realized his mistake early. After closing the initial hole that he drilled on the right side of the patient’s head – he went on to operate –on the right side this time. Thankfully, the patient fully recovered from the ordeal.
5. Surgeons mistakenly removing the wrong side of a patient’s privates.
This would be an ‘ouch-worthy’ story for the rest of the male population. Just like the mistake of removing the healthier leg or operating on the right instead of the left side of a patient’s head, this time, it’s a patient’s private parts which were mistakenly removed.
The victim of the medical mistake is 57-year old Benjamin Houghton who was experiencing pain on his left testicle.
Due to a series of mistakes on the patient’s medical records up to some errors while prepping him for surgery, the surgeons mistakenly removed his healthy right testicle! The mistake reportedly cost the hospital $200,000 from a lawsuit filed by the patient and his wife.
6. A patient receiving the wrong set of heart and lungs.
A case of mixed up organs caused the life of a 17-year old Mexican girl who had hoped to receive a second life when she and her family came to the United States.
Apparently, she received organs from a donor who had type-A blood, which did not match her type-O blood. The patient died shortly after the wrong set of organs failed.
7. “Are you sure that you removed the ‘right’ kidney?”
What if, after a supposedly life-saving operation when your cancerous kidney should’ve been removed, you wake up and find out that it’s your healthy kidney which the surgeons have gotten rid of and what’s left in your body is still the cancerous kidney?
This is exactly what happened to a patient admitted at the Park Nicolette Methodist Hospital in St. Louis Park, Minnesota. It was only on the next day of the operation that pathologists found no malignant tumor at all on the body part which the surgeons removed – which left the conclusion that the still-cancerous kidney is what was left on the body of the patient. [Kidney Cancer]
8. Medical breakthrough leads to patient committing suicide.
You only need to watch a television series like “Grey’s Anatomy” to know that wide-awake surgery is quite a big deal in the medical community. In real life, something like this happened – with disastrous consequences.
A man from West Virginia claimed that the trauma that the patient suffered while undergoing a wide-awake surgery led him to commit suicide a couple of weeks after the operation.
Due to an inadequate amount of anesthetic, the patient felt every slice of the surgeon’s scalpel. However, he was unable to move or communicate what he is feeling during the operation with his doctors – who apparently failed to give him a general anesthetic.
9. Surgeons performing a bypass operation – on the wrong artery.
Yet another celebrity who got victimized by a medical mistake is comedian Dana Carvey of Saturday Night Live. The cardiac surgeon operating on him made a mistake and bypassed the wrong artery. Carvey had to undergo another operation to clear the blockage – on the correct artery this time. [Heart surgery]
10. A metal retractor left inside a patient’s abdomen.
While working on a surgery, a doctor uses tools to do whatever it is that they need to do while opening you up and fixing your insides. But what if one of the tools is left deep within your body? What are you supposed to do then?
This is what happened to 49-year old Donald Church, who had a tumor removed in his abdomen. Although the doctors were successful at removing the tumor, what’s left is a 13-inch long retractor in his abdomen.
The tool was removed soon after it was discovered, but it was revealed later on that Church’s case was not a first time for the University Of Washington Medical Center in Seattle. Four previous incidents of similar nature already occurred at the medical institution between 1997 and the year 2000.
Fortunately for the patient, he didn’t suffer any medical consequences as a result of the mistake – but the hospital had to pay him damages worth $97,000.
A Final Word about Unbelievable Medical Mistakes
If there’s one benefit from the worst medical mistakes ever committed, it’s the fact that health care institutions are becoming even more vigilant and careful.
One proof is the case of a surgeon amputating the wrong leg. In the twelve years since the incident, a slew of newer and better precautionary measures were taken by the hospital to ensure that the same mistake will not happen again.
They also now have a double back-up identification system, an automated error-tracking system, better measures taken for the safety of a patient and they also placed Unit-Based Patient Safety Officers throughout the premises of the hospital.
This way, doctors and other medical professionals will be educated about the extra safety measures that should be taken so as not to endanger the health and lives of the patients under their care.