A patient in Idaho has filed a lawsuit against two doctors alleging that they had removed his healthy kidney instead of a tumour.

Last year, 83-year-old Roland N. Smith was discharged from hospital after an operation where two doctors removed his left kidney instead of the life-threatening tumour on his other kidney. The patient filed a civil malpractice lawsuit in Bonneville County last month.

Cancerous right kidney left untouched

According to the lawsuit, Smith’s right kidney had a huge cancerous tumour that would prove fatal if untreated. The surgery, which was performed in Mountain View Hospital on 23 August, was a “straightforward and non-emergency, yet life-saving, surgical procedure” to remove the tumour, allowing the organ to continue to function and prolonging Smith’s life.

Smith’s condition had been diagnosed by two radiologists and his primary care nurse practitioner – all three diagnoses “clearly and unequivocally stated the tumor was on Smith’s right kidney”.

The lawsuit, which implicates a number of medical personnel, includes Dr. Roger H. Tall and Dr. David J. Chamberlain, along with Mountain View Hospital, alleges that “with utter recklessness, the Tall, Chamberlain and Mountain View Group neglected to read or heed medical records which plainly stated that the cancerous tumor was Smith’s right kidney.”

“Instead, in complete disregard of the most fundamental medical safety standards, the group surgically removed Smith’s healthy, non-cancerous left kidney, leaving his cancerous and lethal right kidney undisturbed and intact,” according to the lawsuit.

Reporting errors on patient’s condition began cropping up

The civil complaint also alleges that Tall and Chamberlain had filed false reports claiming they reviewed the appropriate documents before surgery.

Court records show that Smith’s medical reports, as well as the first referral to Tall and Chamberlain dated 26 July had already identified Smith’s right kidney as cancerous.

However, at some point, reporting errors were made on Smith’s records. The first time the medical test results were relabelled was on a 12 July report generated by radiologist Dr. David Warden. A second reporting error was made on 27 July by Tall.

Smith was then admitted to Mountain View Hospital for a “left renal tumour”. Though Chamberlain’s notes claimed that he had “requested the patients’ old records and reviewed the old records”, neither doctors caught the reporting error, claims the lawsuit.

It also points out that the softball-sized tumour should have been visible had the right organ been examined. Smith’s attorneys contend that “neither surgical physician undertook any appropriate investigation or evaluation to verify the diagnosis”.

The lawsuit accuses Warden of failing to review X-rays, notes written by a sonographer and a renal artery study. It also accuses Mountain View Hospital of not enforcing appropriate protocols that would have prevented the alleged malpractice.

Doctors alleged to have filed false medical reports

According to court documents, the removed kidney was then sent to the pathology department, which informed Tall and Chamberlain the next day that the organ was healthy and “entirely normal”. Yet, on 7 September, Tall signed Smith’s operative report and noted, “Smith is a 83-year-old man with a cystic left renal mass.”

The lawsuit calls this report in question. In one instance, it states that Tall had referred to a cavity left behind by the tumour and that the colon had retracted to fill the void, but that “that was not the case”, as the tumour had been on the right kidney.

The civil complaint, too, claims that “Dr. Chamberlain signed his report on Aug. 30, a week after he had actual knowledge that they had removed the wrong kidney. But he made no correction to the report, (and) as with Dr. Tall, presented the surgery as being completely uneventful.”

Smith was discharged with the cancerous tumour still in his body.

Smith’s attorneys intend to prove at the trial that Tall and Chamberlain had caused physical and emotional pain, as well as loss of enjoyment of life by permanently disabling Smith.

Healthy kidney removed from wrong patient

Another incident occurred last year at a hospital in Massachusetts whereby surgeons mistakenly removed a kidney from the wrong patient. The report determined that two patients with the same name carried out Computerised Tomography scans at a different hospital on the same day.

One of the scans had showed a large tumour in the kidney which was scheduled to be removed. However, lack of patient identification procedures by the medical staff resulted in the removal of a healthy kidney from a patient on 20 July. MIMS

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