Anyone who has recently received medical care from a variety of health care providers has been asked to provide a birth date and middle name. This practice can become tiresome, especially if the information must be provided several times on the same day. A recent case in Boston in which the critical identifying information was not requested shows how important this tiresome process can become.
A man was admitted to the urology department of St. Vincent Hospital for treatment of blood in his urine. The surgeon had not examined or treated the man, but he had looked at a CT scan bearing the patient’s name before talking to the patient. The surgeon told the patient that one of his kidneys had a large malignant tumor and that it must be removed immediately. The surgeon also told the man that his life expectancy was probably less than five years. The surgeon proceeded to remove one of the man’s kidneys.
When a pathologist examined the removed kidney, he discovered that a major mistake had been made. The kidney was perfectly healthy, and it had been removed from the wrong patient. Apparently, two men with the same first and last names underwent CT scans of their abdomens on the same day. The surgeon did not check the birth date of the patient from whom the kidney was removed, and because of this omission, he looked at the wrong CT scan when he told the patient that the kidney must be removed.
The Massachusetts State Board of Medicine has reprimanded the surgeon, but he is still practicing. The patient from whom the wrong kidney was removed has sued the physician, the hospital system and other medical staff alleging various kinds of medical malpractice. Anyone who has experienced similar error by a physician or health care provider may wish to consult an attorney who is experienced in handling medical malpractice cases for advice on the wisdom of commencing litigation to recover damages.