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    I operated on the wrong ear

    David J. Goldberg, M.D., J.D.Dr. Cancer is a well respected Mohs surgeon who receives referrals from many physicians. He is well known for his expertise in skin cancer removal. He holds an academic title, lectures nationally on skin cancer treatment, and runs a Mohs fellowship training program. All patients referred to him are required to bring biopsy reports. Some even come with photographs of the biopsied area. Most patients have a pretty good idea of where the biopsy was taken. Two years ago, Dr. Cancer saw a patient with a biopsy proven BCC of the right helix. The patient, during initial consultation, also brought a photo of the involved area. Because the patient was so anxious about her upcoming surgery, Dr. Cancer suggested she take an anti-anxiety medication prior to surgery. Consent forms were signed during the consultation appointment.

    READ: Did negligence cause patient’s death?

    On the day of surgery, Dr. Cancer’s patient took a double dosage of her anti-anxiety medication. She was sleepy and confused when she entered Dr. Cancer’s office. Unfortunately, it was not a good day in Dr. Cancer’s office. The Mohs fellow provided local anesthesia to the wrong ear. Dr. Cancer followed by removing a significant segment of the wrong ear. As the staff began to teach the patient appropriate wound care, the patient’s family noticed that surgery was performed on the wrong ear. Needless to say, they were appalled.  They never returned to the office and filed both a medical malpractice lawsuit and a claim with Dr. Cancer’s state board of medical examiner. Now what?

    READ: My patient with acne committed suicide

    Unfortunately, wrong-site surgeries do happen. Over a decade ago, a world renowned New York neurosurgeon lost his medical license for operating on the wrong side of a patient’s brain. Several months ago, a Rhode Island hospital was penalized for allowing five wrong-site surgeries to be performed over the previous three years. The Rhode Island Department of Health was not happy. The hospital was forced to pay a  $150,000 fine, provide one-mandatory safety training session for all personnel involved in performing elective surgeries, and institute a proctor to monitor that the surgical teams would be following safety protocols. Even more was required, in this instance: the Health Department mandated that the hospital install video and audio monitoring equipment in each operating room. There would now be a record of not only the banter that goes on during surgery but also the chosen music of the day. It was felt that such radical measures would get to the root cause of the problem.  Patients, of course, needed to give consent to be videotaped.]

    NEXT: Wrong site surgery is preventable

    David J. Goldberg, M.D., J.D.
    Dr. Goldberg is Director of Skin Laser & Surgery Specialists of New York and New Jersey, Director of Mohs Surgery and laser research, ...


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