A female Austrian surgeon has been fined the equivalent of $3,000 after amputating the right leg of a patient instead of the left. A nurse who had gone to do a routine bandage change discovered the error two days after the surgery and then brought it to the attention of the authorities that the wrong limb was amputated, CBS News reports.
The Linz Regional Court convicted the 43-year-old surgeon for “committing grossly negligent bodily harm”. But the doctor insisted that while she regretted the error, she was not negligent because she amputated the limb actually marked for amputation. Investigations showed that the wrong leg was marked for amputation – and the doctor had followed the marked indication – not knowing that it was wrong.
The surgeon noted she made the mistake because of a flaw in the chain of command within the operating room. Although the faulty limb would have to be amputated again, the patient died before the matter came up in court. He died of reasons not related to the surgery. The court awarded damage of about $5,650 to the widow.
The overall director of the clinic issued a public apology over the incident, claiming it was the result of a sequence of unfortunate circumstances. He disclosed that the tragic mistake was an avoidable error caused by human incompetency.
“We would also like to affirm that we will be doing everything to unravel the case, to investigate all internal processes and critically analyze them,” the hospital offered. “Any necessary steps will immediately be taken.”
Following the incident, the unnamed surgeon left the clinic and moved on to another employer. Half of her fine has also been suspended, and she has up till December 6 to appeal the court’s ruling. Failure to appeal will make the court’s decision to be final and for the fine to stand.
This is not the first time surgeons will be making mistakes on account of human error. In 1995, Dr. Rolando Sanchez was halfway amputating the wrong leg of a diabetic patient before a nurse alerted him to the mistake. He committed the error because the left leg of the diabetic had been marked for amputation on the surgery report and on the schedule of surgeries.
The court fined Sanchez $250,000 and the University of Community Hospital in Florida $900,000 for the patient.
The same thing also happened this year when the University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center carried out a kidney transplant on the wrong patient. The recipient did not require a kidney transplant, and the one that required it had to wait longer for several days more after the error was realized before they could get the new transplant.