surgeon operated on wrong eye of four year old

Just last week this blog was discussing the types of medical malpractice that stand out in patients’ minds as being particularly horrific. The top of that list included amputating or operating on the wrong limb or body part. Now a fresh story has hit the news about a surgeon who operated on the wrong eye of a four-year-old boy.

Just a few weeks ago, on April 13th, the boy had an operation to repair a wandering eye. The eye that needed surgery was the right eye, but the surgeon operated on the left eye. During the surgery, she realized her mistake and also performed the procedure on the right eye.

The boy’s parents are not sure if there will be any permanent damage from the surgery performed on the healthy eye. After a subsequent visit to another doctor, the family was told that they will have to wait for five weeks. By that time, both eyes will have sufficiently healed from the surgery to determine if there is permanent damage to either eye.

The boy had been visiting the eye doctor every six months since it was discovered that he had a wandering eye. The surgery actually took place just days before his fourth birthday.

The cause for concern is that the strategy for the right eye was to surgically weaken the muscle at the bottom of the right eye, since the strength of that muscle was causing the eye to wander. It was only after performing the surgery on the left eye that the surgeon realized she had been working on the wrong eye.

The boy’s parents reported that they were in the recovery room at the time they were told the surgery would be complete. At that time, a nurse arrived to tell them that the surgeon would be operating on both eyes. She did not explain that the procedure had been performed on the incorrect eye, nor did she ask the parents how they wanted to proceed.

After the surgery on both eyes, the surgeon explained to the family what had happened, but in medical terms only. When asked to clarify, she admitted that she had lost her sense of direction in the surgery. Her explanation was that a nurse had covered a mark the surgeon made on the eye that needed correction.

So far, the boy’s mother feels that the right eye has not been fixed. She also believes the left eye is beginning to wander.

The boy’s mother has stressed that they have made the case public because they do not want the mistake repeated by anyone else. As in many cases that Pennsylvania medical malpractice attorneys have seen, the primary motivation is not to punish the surgeon, but to prevent future mistakes that would affect other patients.

The mother said. “A lot of people think we’re doing this for money, and that’s not the case. We’re just doing this for our kid. We’re speaking out for our kid because nobody else can.”

Source: ABC News “Medical Mistake: Surgeon Operates on the Wrong Eye of a 4-Year-Old Boy” 4/19/2011

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