When Surgeons Operate on the Wrong Body Part

When Pamela and Kenny Metheny took their 15-year-old son Cody to the hospital to remove a lesion on his brain, they were undoubtedly extremely worried, as any parent would be. It is almost certain, though, that they could not have imagined what eventually happened. The surgical team operated on the wrong side of their son’s brain, removing brain tissue from otherwise healthy parts of the brain.

Following the operation, Cody began developing cognitive difficulties and permanent disabilities. Eventually, the Metheny’s received $11 million in compensation for Cody’s injuries.

While surgery on the wrong body part is not very common, it does happen. According to a study in the journal Archives of Surgery, about 2,700 surgeries each year are performed on the wrong body part.

When they do happen, these operations can be devastating in their effects. The loss of the wrong limb in an amputation, a dangerous infection in an area that should never have been operated on, or direct damage to an organ, are some of the potentially harmful consequences of this type of medical error.

About ten years ago, the commission that accredits U.S. hospitals, implemented the Universal Protocol for Preventing Wrong Site, Wrong Procedure and Wrong Person Surgery™ in order to address this serious problem. The protocol requires that surgical teams go through three steps designed to make sure that the surgical team operates on the proper body part:

  • A pre-procedure verification in which the surgeon makes sure he or she is matched with the right patient, is performing the correct operation, and is doing so at the proper place on the body
  • Marking by the surgeon of the part of the body to be operated on
  • A standardized time-out for the entire surgical team right before the surgery so the team can confirm they have the right patient, are performing the right operation, and have identified the correct body part for the operation

In Cody Metheny’s case, the surgical team failed to perform the standardized time-out, with terrible results.

If you or a loved one has been the victim of a surgery on the wrong body part, please contact our office for more information about your rights and for an evaluation of your case.

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