Medical professionals are almost expected to be superhumans, to provide high quality care in stressful environments, while avoiding errors at all times. Is this expectation going too far, considering that oversights are a natural part of being human?

Here are 5 more of the world’s most unfortunate instances of medical errors. Did these doctors commit honest mistakes or grave blunders that should see equal punishment? 

1. Wrong leg amputated

In a leg amputation gone wrong, Dr Rolando Sanchez learnt that he was amputating the wrong leg of his patient, 52-year-old Willie King halfway through the procedure. But by that point, he said, there was no turning back.

"I tried to recover from the sinking feeling I had.”

The mistake stemmed from the severely diseased condition of both King’s legs and the wrong leg being listed on the operating room blackboard. This chain of errors led Sanchez to believe that he was operating on the correct leg, for which he paid a hefty price. His medical license was suspended for six months and he was fined $10,000, this in addition to the $250,000 he paid to King.

"It is my opinion that 50 -- no, probably 90 percent -- of the surgeons in this state would have made the same mistake that Dr. Sanchez made," said Dr. Joseph Diaco, an expert witness for the defense. King also said he did not hold the surgeon alone responsible for the mishap.

2. Wrong kidney removed, cancerous one left behind

At Park Nicollet Methodist Hospital in Minnesota, a patient had his healthy kidney removed, leaving the other potentially cancerous kidney behind.

"The discovery that this was the wrong kidney was made the next day when the pathologist examined the material and found no evidence of any malignancy," said Samuel Carlson, Park Nicollet Chief Medical Officer.

The potentially cancerous kidney had remained intact and functioning. However, no details about the patient were released due to privacy requests.

3. Wrong artery bypassed

After three unsuccessful angioplasties, Dana Carvey, comedian and former Saturday Night Live cast member, decided to undergo a double bypass heart operation in 1998. However, cardiac surgeon Dr Elias Hanna bypassed a wrong artery by mistake.

“Carvey had an unusual anatomy. He had an artery that was in the muscle of his heart, so it wasn't visible to surgeons," said Dane Jones, Hanna’s attorney.

The surgery appeared to be successful, until Carvey experienced chest pain two months after the procedure and underwent an emergency angioplasty. Carvey’s attorney estimates that heart problems cost the entertainer nearly $7 million, and Carvey sought $7.5 million in damages from Hanna.

4. Anaesthesia awareness possibly led to suicide

73-year-old Sherman Sizemore committed suicide two weeks after he experienced anaesthesia awareness - a state in which a patient is able to feel pain, pressure or discomfort during an operation, but is unable to move or communicate with doctors.

This prompted his family to file a lawsuit against Raleigh Anaesthesia Associates that they claim failed to give their father drugs to render him unconscious. Sizemore had undergone an exploratory surgery to determine the cause of his abdominal pain at Raleigh General Hospital in West Virginia at the time.

His anaesthesiologists had administered paralytic agents but failed to provide him inhalational anaesthesia until 16 minutes after the first incision. His family believes that the unusual behaviour Sizemore exhibited after the procedure stemmed from the trauma of his anaesthesia awareness and ultimately resulted in his suicide.

5. Large intestine mistaken for fallopian tube

27-year-old Jharana Mallick had been admitted to Community Health Center (CHC) in Indupur, India for tubectomy, a sterilisation procedure. After the surgery, however, she experienced severe abdominal pain.

"We were forced to shift her to the headquarters hospital in Kendrapara following deterioration of her health condition,” said her husband.

According to Nirajan Swain, Kendrapara Chief Medical Officer, a portion of Mallick’s large intestine had been wrongly cut instead of her fallopian tube during the tubectomy surgery, causing her to develop complications. She was later referred to the intensive care unit of SCB medical college and hospital in Cuttack.

Although her condition has improved and she is out danger, her husband has since filed a police report alleging that the doctor and hospital committed gross negligence. "We are waiting for the medical report before initiating legal action," police inspector Sanjeev Mohanty said. MIMS

Read more:
5 of the most disastrous medical stories involving human errors
Doctors: medical negligence and how to avoid it
5 abnormal cases of retained foreign bodies in patients
Criminalised doctor: Navigating the thin ice that is the medical profession
Missed diagnosis: 37 days to find a coin stuck in toddler’s throat

Sources:
http://www.oddee.com/item_96576.aspx
http://mumbaimirror.indiatimes.com/news/india/doctors-accidentally-cut-large-intestine-instead-of-fallopian-tube/articleshow/56099670.cms
http://www.nytimes.com/1995/09/17/us/doctor-who-cut-off-wrong-leg-is-defended-by-colleagues.html