10 Alarming Medical Mistakes You Should be Aware of

Hospitals are supposed to be safe places where healing and heath are found. Patients look to the educated staff and specialized equipment for answers to their sicknesses. Unfortunately, hospitals sometimes let us down. Humans make errors. Blunders can happen in any profession. Some of the most disturbing mistakes happen when someone is unconscious in the operating room.  There are many things that can go wrong in the hospital. Here is a list of 10 alarming medical mistakes:

10. Removed More Than Expected

medical mistakes

Imagine waking up from surgery only to find your genitals gone owing to some medical mistakes. Hurshell Ralls, sixty seven years old, awoke from surgery to hear that the doctors were able to remove all the cancer from his bladder. However, the doctors also removed his penis and testicles. “I was one mad dude,” Ralls said in an interview. Ralls also said that the doctors never suggested the possibility of removing his testicles and penis. The situation became worse when later it was found that cells from Ralls’s penis tested negative for penile cancer. A settlement was reached in Ralls’s civil suit for an undisclosed amount.

9. Wrong Kidney

medical mistakes

A patient at Park Nicollet Methodist Hospital in St. Louis Park, Minnesota encountered a different but equally alarming medical error in 2008.  The unnamed patient checked into the hospital to remove a cancerous kidney. A day after the surgery doctors realized they had removed the healthy kidney instead of the cancerous kidney.  This happened when the kidney on the wrong side was labeled on patient’s medical charts as cancerous. “An error of this degree has, to the best of our knowledge, never happened at this hospital before,” said Dr. Samuel Carlson, chief medical officer for Park Nicollet Health Services which owns Methodist Hospital.

8. Wrong Eye

medical mistakes

Operations on the wrong body part are terrible when you are the victim. When the wrong surgery is done to your child it is a parent’s nightmare. Jesse Matlock was only four years old when a heartbreaking hospital error occurred. He went to the hospital to correct his wandering eye. It was a standard procedure. The problem was the wrong eye was operated on. The surgery took place at Legacy Emanuel Medical Center in Portland, Oregon. The doctor said she did not realize she had operated on the wrong eye until the surgery was completed. “It just blows me away,” said Dale Matlock, Jesse’s father.  “I can’t comprehend what happened in that operating room. This is a medical mishap that is never supposed to happen. Something had to happen with their procedure.”

7. Wrong Patient

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Most patients do as they are told because they believe that the doctors and nurses have a competent knowledge of what they are doing. Kerry Higuera went to the emergency room in Arizona when she was pregnant because she was experiencing bleeding. Little did she know that she would become a victim of one of the most alarming medical mistakes ever. The nurse took Carrie to a CT scan room. “Is this really what I need to have done?” Kerry asked assuming that radiation would harm her three-month old fetus. The nurse assured her that “this is what the doctor wants” so she submitted to an abdominal CT scan.

Later Higuera was visited by the emergency room physician, two radiologists and someone representing the human resources department of Banner Thunderbird Medical Center in Glendale. Higuera said she was informed that there was a mistake. Kerry said she remembers, “They said ‘There’s another patient here named Kerry, and you two are the same age. We mixed you up. She was supposed to have the CT scan, not you.’ “Higuera is cautious because her baby could have mental retardation, a low IQ or growth problems because of the radiation exposure.

6. Surgical Souvenir

medical mistakes

Donald Church, forty nine year old, was not identified as the wrong patient. However, he was in tremendous pain after having a cancerous tumor removed in 2000. At first doctors told him it was just the normal pain that patients experience after surgery. However, after months of continued pain the doctors found the source of his pain. Church had a thirteen inch medical instrument inside his body that had accidentally been left there after his surgery. The retractor, which holds tissue and organs in place near an incision, is about the size of a rule. This is even odder because the instrument is not typically inserted completely into the body during surgery. It was removed and Church has not suffered any long term health effects from the grave mistake. He received a $97,000 settlement from the university of Washington Medical Center for the error.

5. Wrong Organs

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Some medical mistakes can have far reaching and fatal consequences.  Jesica Santillan did not have extra instruments left in her. Instead Jesica Santillan was seventeen years old when she received the heart and lungs that did not match her blood type.

Santillan was a Mexican immigrant who came to the United States of America seeking a treatment for a life-threatening heart condition. Duke University Medical Center failed to check the compatibility of the organs before her surgery. After a second transplant operation to fix their mistake she suffered brain damage and complications that lead to her death. The surgeons at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, gave her organs from a type A blood donor and she had type O blood. The blunder sent her into unconsciousness.  She died shortly after an attempt to switch out the organs failed. Duke reached a settlement with the family for an undisclosed amount.

4. Too Many Teeth

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Imagine walking into a dentist office with a minor toothache and coming out missing all your teeth. Christopher Crist, a twenty one year old, was experiencing pain in his mouth so he went to the dentist. Crist went to Amazing Family Dental in Indianapolis, Indiana. He was expecting to have three teeth pulled from his mouth. Instead he woke up to find that all thirty two teeth had been pulled.  Now he is facing life without any teeth. Sheena Cortez said she was in another exam room and said she was in disbelief that something like this could happen. She said Crist’s face “looked scary.” Crist said, “They pulled every last one of them [referring to his teeth]. I am going to look like a freak now.”

3. Not Enough Anesthesia

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Most people who go in for surgery get knocked out and the next moment wake up in the recovery room. Erin Cook was not so fortunate. He was a victim to one of the most spine-chilling medical mistakes in history. Cook had a procedure to have an ovarian tumor removed. During the procedure she awoke to learn she could feel everything that was happening, but was unable to communicate. This was due to an under dose of anesthesia which causes the brain to stay awake but the muscles to stay frozen.

She felt the pain of every cut during the surgery without numbness and without any way to tell the surgeon to stop. No part of her body would respond no matter how hard she tried to move it. Later she was told the vaporizer that was supposed to be keeping her asleep malfunctioned and was leaking gas. As a result only five percent of the anesthesia was making it to her system. The ordeal left Cook physically and emotionally traumatized.

2. Wrong Tube

medical mistakes

Alicia Coleman was nineteen months old when she went to an Omaha, Nebraska hospital. She had a seizure and went into cardiac arrest after medicine was improperly routed into her system. Coleman was born twelve months premature and had a gastrointestinal disorder, but had been improving. Alicia’s mother, Dominique Coleman, said Alicia was staying in the Children’s Home Healthcare’s World where a nurse mistakenly gave Alicia a drug, designed to slow the absorption of food, via a central line to her heart rather than through Alicia’s feeding tube. This caused the seizure and cardiac arrest.

Doctors tried to resuscitate Alicia for over an hour. The hospital said they believe human medical mistakes led to the accidental death of Alicia. Dominique said she believes the death to be accidental, but cannot move on until she knows that the hospital has taken responsibility for the disastrous actions and changes are put into place to make sure that this kind of blunder never happens again.

1. No Water

alarming medical mistakes

Patients at hospitals expect certain things, for instance water. Kane Gorny, age twenty two, was hospitalized at St George’s Hospital, Tooting, south London. Gorny would become a unfortunate victim of a hospital neglect. He could not obtain a glass of water at the hospital. He was so desperate he called the police from his hospital bed because he was so thirsty. Nurses and doctors continued to ignore his request for water and he died the next day. Gorny died of dehydration.

Gorny’s mother, Rita Cronin, said that the ward was “in absolute chaos” when she arrived to visit her son, with the nursing staff “very confused themselves, they looked way out of [their] depth”. Gorny was aggressive towards the staff caring for him and nurses said he had a “fixation” with water. Speaking of one of the most tragic medical mistakes, a Department of Health spokeswoman said: “Every patient expects to receive safe and high-quality care, and to be treated with compassion.”

Written by: Daniel Griffen