Some famous examples of clinical negligence

Many people might think that poor treatment from a doctor constitutes clinical negligence [an alternative expression for medical negligence], but this is often a far cry from some of the most famous and extreme cases where doctors or health professionals have completely failed in their duty of care.

In Rhode Island Hospital in the United States, for example, the brain surgery department somehow managed to operate on the wrong side of a patient’s brain three times in one year. The excuse given the first time was that the doctor and nurse involved had not been given training in how to use a checklist. In the second instance, the doctor didn’t write down which side of the brain needed a blood clot removed, simply relying on his memory, which failed him. The patient died a few weeks later.

In Mexico in 1999, a bodybuilder decided he wanted to get pectoral implants in order to improve his physique. The doctor instead gave him C-cup breast implants, thereby ruining the bodybuilder’s career. The doctor was found to have no legitimate credentials and was conducting operations using kitchen utensils. Again in the United States, Daryoush Mazarei went in for an operation and came out with a ten-inch retractor left behind inside his chest, which had then been stitched up. Despite going back and complaining of agonising pain, he was told the problem was in his head and was offered psychiatric help.

When Jesica Santillan, a 17-year-old girl, required a heart and double-lung transplant, her family were delighted when the organs were found and transplanted. However, it became apparent that although Jesica had the ‘O’ blood type, the organs she had implanted were from an ‘A’ blood type. This should have been checked by over a dozen people, but not one did. The mistake was covered up for eleven days, with the hospital then publicly seeking a new donor. She received a second transplant three days later but had already been declared brain dead and was taken off life support.

In 2000, Graham Reeves went to hospital in Wales to have a kidney removed. Despite two surgeons working on the operation, the wrong kidney was removed and Graham later died. Likewise, Willie King, from the United States, received $1.15 million in clinical negligence compensation after the wrong leg was amputated by a surgeon.

It is also often the case of the reverse, that diseases are diagnosed when they never actually existed at all. Kim Tutt, for example, was told that she had cancer in her jaw and had only three months to live, but this could be extended to nine months if part of her jaw was removed. She went ahead with the procedure and three months later was given the fantastic news that she was free of cancer. The only caveat was that she had always been free of cancer — the diagnosis was made mistakenly and she had been permanently disfigured for nothing.

Although these examples are all quite extreme, clinical negligence can have many different aspects and levels of seriousness. If you feel you or a family member might have been a victim of clinical negligence, you should seek the advice of a specialist solicitor who will be able to advise you as to whether or not you might have a case to claim.

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