Massachusetts Surgeon ‘Mistakenly’ Removes Kidney From Wrong Patient, Hospital In Trouble

In what is being described as a major instance of medical negligence, investigations have confirmed that a surgeon from a Massachusetts hospital “mistakenly” removed a kidney from a wrong patient. CNN had back in August reported about Massachusetts health authorities launching an investigation into the incident following allegations. Two months later, the investigations seem to have more or less confirmed the news. The incident reportedly happened at the St. Vincent Hospital in Worcester, Massachusetts, back in July.

Initial indications point towards the possibility of this being a case of mistaken identity. The patient whose kidney was mistakenly removed shared the same name as another man who was also admitted to the same facility with a kidney ailment. The other patient had a tumor in his kidney due to which its removal was deemed necessary. However, due to some reason, the wrong man was assigned for the kidney surgery following which a surgeon performed the procedure on another person and had a perfectly healthy kidney removed. According to reports, the surgeon did realize that the kidney was healthy once it was removed.

Following investigations, it became clear that the hospital had two patients with the same name (but different birthdays) admitted when the incident happened. The patient whose kidney was supposed to be removed was referred to St. Vincent Hospital from another facility. It still remains a mystery as to how the wrong patient (who was also significantly younger) was wheeled in for the surgery and had a normal, healthy body part removed. According to the nurses who share the responsibility of bringing in the correct patients to the operating room, they are not always given the doctor’s notes and scans. As per procedures laid down by regulatory authorities, nurses are meant to confirm scanned imagery and patient data before the commencement of any surgical procedure.

Following the incident, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health’s Division of Health Care Facility Licensure issued a statement that read,

“The patient’s admission and plan for surgery to remove the tumorous kidney was based on another patient’s Computerized Tomography (CT) scan results, in error.”

The organization further added,

“We are working to implement enhanced safeguards as identified in the [Center for Medicaid and Medicare Services] survey, including additional verification steps with physicians,”

Erica Noonan, a spokesperson for the St. Vincent Hospital, referred to the incident as an unfortunate situation. In a statement issued to a local publication, she wrote,

“This was a deeply unfortunate situation and we will take all steps necessary to prevent it from happening again. In the future, the hospital plans to have all surgical cases which are deemed clinically necessary based on an imaging study, have the images available, present (displayed) prior to the surgery to verify the patient’s name, date of birth, surgical site and side,”

Another statement issued by Tenet Health, which owns St. Vincent Hospital, read,

“Our staff followed proper protocols in preparing for and performing the surgery, which was scheduled by the patient’s physician at our hospital. Saint Vincent Hospital is committed to providing safe, high-quality care to every patient who enters our doors. We are saddened that this incident occurred and our leadership continues to assure the affected patient receives the support and care needed.”

Tenet Health, however, did not elaborate on how or where the mistaken identification took place.

Meanwhile, reports are coming in which point towards the possibility of the hospital being at risk of losing Medicaid and Medicare funding,

According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, incidents of this nature are described as a “never event” and usually indicate serious underlying safety problems. However, studies have shown that such errors do eventually occur — approximately once in 112,000 surgical procedures.

[Featured Image by Pixabay]