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English doctors amputate wrong legs, testicles and cut out healthy kidneys

06.10.2006
 
English doctors amputate wrong legs, testicles and cut out healthy kidneys

The number of horrifying medical blunders in which patients had wrong body parts removed have soared in just two years, according to new figures. The number of patients who woke from surgery to find themselves victims of terrible blunders almost doubled last year, The Daily Mail newspaper wrote.

Meanwhile compensation payouts to victim have risen by more than 100 per cent to just over £1 million in the year 2005 to 2006 alone.

Among the clinical mishaps last year were eight incidents of the wrong disc being removed, five cases of the wrong leg being amputated and four cases of the wrong hip being taken.

It follows revelations of doctors removing the wrong testicle and a woman given a hysterectomy in error after a records mix up.

Other mistakes include the wrong set of lungs being transplanted into a patient and a child who was mistakenly circumcised after doctors visited the wrong home.

Called wrong site surgery, there were 27 claims in 2003-2004, rising to 35 claims the following financial year and 40 claims last year.

It means that dozens of people are waking up from surgery every year to find that surgeons have carried out an operation on them - but on the wrong body part.

A legal wrangle ensues when the patient then sues the NHS for compensation and trauma associated with the blunder. Last year one patient received the biggest ever payout of £327,076 for an operating error.

The payouts have been made by the National Health Service Litigation Authority, which is the central body responsible for dealing with all legal claims against the NHS in England.

Last year it paid out a total of £560 million in damages and costs for medical negligence claims. Claim costs for wrong site surgery were £447,000 three years ago and by the end of the last financial year had soared to more than £1 million.

It means its cost the NHS an average of £27,000 for every wrong site surgery last year compared to just £16,500 three years ago.

Extraction of teeth is the most common blunder. North-West London SHA revealed lungs from a donor with a different blood group were transplanted into a patient in 2003 and in another area holes were drilled into the wrong side of the head of a neurosurgery patient.

Earlier this year The Daily Mail told how a cancer sufferer was facing a lifetime of dialysis treatment after doctors removed his healthy kidney by mistake.

John Heron, 64, had surgery in March to cut out his diseased kidney after it was diagnosed with a cancerous growth.

But he came round from the operation to discover the blunder. The grandfather was left facing further surgery and painful dialysis.

In a separate case a 57-year-old nurse went to the General Medical Council after a French vascular surgeon took her transplanted kidney instead of her diseased kidney.

A Patients Association spokesman said: "I really am surprised and shocked by this figure because you don't expect doctors of all people to make these serious errors." He said doctors were under pressure coping with the demands of an aging population. But he added: "At the end of the day they have to make sure they are reading the patient's notes before an operation is started. They have to see their patient's history and take extra care to make sure they don't make mistakes that cause undue grief to them. These mistakes ruin people's lives and cost the NHS millions of pounds a year in compensation and legal fees."

Last year a report estimated that up to 34,000 patients die every year as a result of a medical blunder.

Beth Hale for Daily Mail

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