Our bodies go through many changes over a lifetime. And while most of us are fortunate enough to remain more or less intact, others go through major changes like the loss of a limb. Whether lost in an accident or amputated for medical reasons, loss of a limb is often psychologically traumatizing.
Imagine being told that doctors will need to amputate one of your limbs. You go in for surgery and brace yourself for the loss. When you wake up from surgery, however, you discover that the wrong limb has been amputated. While such an error seems impossible to make, it does happen. In fact, it happened to someone earlier this summer.
CNN reported in May that an 82-year-old man in Austria went in to have his left leg amputated, but he awoke to find that his right leg had been amputated instead. The mistake occurred because a hospital staffer doing pre-operative prep work marked the wrong leg to be removed.
The patient had to undergo a second procedure to amputate the left leg. Because amputations are irreversible, of course, the man has now lost both of his legs.
This type of medical error is known as wrong-site surgery, meaning that doctors performed surgery on the wrong part of the body. While mistaken amputations are an extreme example and quite rare, wrong-site surgeries in general occur more often. Other types of surgery errors include:
- Leaving surgical instruments inside the body
- Causing nerve injury during a procedure
- Administering too little or too much anesthesia, endangering the patient’s life
- Failure to monitor a patient’s vital signs during a surgery
- Mixing up patients and performing surgery on the wrong person
Because hospitals try to keep mistakes quiet if at all possible, it is hard to know exactly how often patients are harmed by surgical errors. According to at least one academic study, however, there are at least 4,000 surgery errors annually in the United States.
If you’ve been seriously injured because of an error committed by a doctor or hospital, you deserve answers, and you may be eligible for compensation. An experienced medical malpractice attorney can help you better understand your rights and legal options.