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Surgical mistakes that have made patients wary of 'going under'

Nearly every Illinois resident has heard of the nightmare scenarios that can occur during operations. These are surgical mistakes so egregious that they can make anyone wary of undergoing a surgical procedure. Four such errors were recently highlighted as still being some of the most shocking in medical history.

The first is the story of a patient who underwent a heart and lung transplant procedure. The organs were of the wrong blood type, which caused the patient to reject the organs. Even though the patient was kept alive in order to receive a new transplant about two weeks later, the damage to the patient's brain was already done, which led to his or her death.

In 2006, a survivor of metastatic testicular cancer complained of pain in his left testicle. However, the surgeon removed the right one. Shockingly, the consent form signed by the surgeon also listed the wrong body part to be removed.

Another patient underwent surgery to remove a cancerous tumor that weighed 13 pounds. A 13-inch retractor was later discovered to have been left in the patient's abdomen by surgeons. Fortunately, the instrument was successfully removed without any lasting damage to the patient.

Finally, during a 2006 exploratory surgery, a patient was not given general anesthesia until approximately 16 minutes into the procedure. He was awake and could feel the surgeons cutting into his body. The emotional trauma was so severe that the patient took his own life in February of that year.

These are extreme cases of surgical mistakes, but they do remind people here in Illinois and elsewhere that surgeons are not infallible. When an error is made, it can leave a patient with serious and/or permanent injuries or even cause the patient's death. Victims and their families retain the right to file medical malpractice claims seeking restitution for the damage caused, which could also prompt changes that could prevent another mistake.

Source:, "4 shocking medical errors", Mary Rechtoris, Sept. 7, 2016

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