Doctor Put On Probation After Cutting Out The Wrong Kidney

A California doctor who removed the wrong kidney from his patient instead of the other cancerous kidney nearly three years ago is being disciplined for his errors.

According to the Orange County Register, Dr. Charles Coonan Streit operated on a 59-year-old federal inmate in February, 2012, at St. Jude Medical Center in Fullerton, southeast of Los Angeles. The urologist, who has had a license for 41 years, relied on his own memory instead of any medical imagery or diagnostic information.

The California Medical Board claimed Streit didn’t have access to the patient’s complete medical records, and the paperwork he had was not correct. The record indicated the patient had a cancerous right kidney, according to the California Department of Public Health.

Dr. Charles Streit
Dr. Charles Coonan Streit relied on his own memory and removed a patient's healthy kidney instead of the diseased one.

However, the Associated Press reports St. Jude Medical Center was fined $100,000 by the California Department of Public Health because the CT scans showing the left kidney was actually the cancerous kidney were out of sight in an office on the day the wrong kidney was removed. A spokesperson said the hospital requires such images to be available before surgeries are scheduled.

The medical board believes the doctor was responsible for the wrong-site surgery because he was the person actually removing the kidney. Streit only relied upon his memory and did not make use of a renal ultrasound or other images and scans.

“As the surgeon, it was Dr. Streit’s sole obligation to carefully review the radiographic and other documentation so as to avoid this mistake.”

The nurses and an anesthesiologist who facilitated the doctor in the patient’s surgery told state inspectors they asked the patient more than once which kidney was the one to be removed, and the patient told them the wrong kidney.

Nevertheless, the operation went on as planned and the doctor removed the healthy kidney and left the cancerous one intact. As a result, the unnamed patient had to undergo another surgery and put his “future renal function in jeopardy.”

The doctor was placed on probation for three years and will not be allowed to supervise physician assistants during his probation. Streit was also ordered to attend training on how to evade wrong-site surgery at the University of California at San Diego’s School of Medicine. He still remains on staff at St. Jude Medical Center.

The lawyer who represents Dr. Streit did not reply to messages asking for comments regarding the incident.

The medical board called the doctor’s actions and the removal of the wrong kidney “an extreme departure from the standard of care.”