The 10 Biggest Doctor Fails

Featured Article, Healthy Living
on June 12, 2013
Ten big doctor mistakes.

You put a lot of trust in your doctor. After all, she studied years upon years of medicine—no easy task—and has seen hundreds, if not thousands, of patients over her career. But doctors and other healthcare workers aren’t perfect, as evidenced by these scary stories.

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1. Dosage Disaster
Film star Dennis Quaid’s twins, Thomas and Zoe, developed a staph infection a few days after they were born. When the Quaids took their babies to the hospital for a course of IV antibiotics, their blood unexpectedly turned as thin as water. Doctors realized someone had given the babies a massive overdose of heparin, a blood thinner used to prepare IVs. Thankfully, the bleeding was controlled, and the babies made a full recovery.

2. Patient Mix-up
Two women with the same first name were in the same hospital at the same time. One needed a CT scan; the other was three months pregnant. The hospital confused the two and the pregnant one, Kerry Higuera, was given a CT scan of her abdomen, which increased the risk that the unborn baby would get leukemia or have birth defects. Fortunately, both baby and mom are healthy.

3. Missed Mark
When 4-year-old Jesse Matlock went in for eye surgery, the surgeon mistakenly operated on the wrong eye. To make matters worse, when the doctor realized her mistake, she immediately went ahead and operated on the other eye, without consulting Jesse’s parents. Matlock’s eyesight is normal, but he has to follow a routine of daily eye drops and dark sunglasses to protect his eyes.

4. Anesthesia Gone Wrong
Erin Cook was trapped on the operating table, unable to move or say a word. Cook was having surgery to remove an ovarian tumor and, due to a gas vaporizer leak, only received five percent of the anesthesia she needed. She went to sleep, but then felt the terrible pain of the surgery.

5. Diagnosis Danger
After having trouble conceiving another child, Caroline and Sean Savage turned to a fertility lab for help. Embryos were placed in Caroline’s uterus, and days later, they received the shocking news: The lab had transferred another couple’s embryos into Caroline by mistake (the other woman also had the last name Savage). The devout Catholic ended up carrying the other woman’s baby to full term, and then gave him up to his real parents. A couple of years later, the Savages were able to have twins via a surrogate.

6. Cosmetic Catastrophe
Argentinean model Solange Magnano went in for a cosmetic operation to enhance her buttocks… and then died five days later. The procedure called for injections of a liquid, which went to her brain and lungs, causing a blocked lung artery. Doctors were unable to save her life.

7. Toxic Transplant
Joshua Hightower received a life-saving kidney, and then suddenly, instead of getting better, his condition worsened. Within months of his surgery, 18-year-old Joshua died — of rabies. Unknown to the transplant surgeon, the organ donor had been bitten by a bat, and the virus spread through his bloodstream. There are thousands of potential pathogens that organ donors could be infected with and since rabies is so uncommon, the screening tests for it are not universally available.

8. Dishonorable Discharge
Instead of making sure James Absten had a ride to his care facility after an unscheduled trip to the emergency room after a fourth round of brain surgery, the University of Washington Medical Center staff put him in a taxicab alone. Still dressed in just his hospital gown and socks with bandages and staples in his head, he was so disoriented that he didn’t know his own address. Neighbors found him on street corner late at night, and helped him find his way to his care facility.

9. Surgery Leftovers
Palm Beach County Judge Nelson Bailey underwent elective surgery for diverticulitis at Good Samaritan Medical Center in West Palm Beach. The surgeon who removed a section of his intestines left behind a washcloth-sized sponge. The item caused Bailey agony for five months before it was detected, requiring removal of part of his intestines where the sponge was festering.

10. Bombed Biopsy
Single mom Darrie Eason was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer. After getting a second opinion and having two more experts look at her lab work, she made the difficult decision to have a double mastectomy. Weeks later, her doctors revealed that she never had breast cancer and that the biopsy showing the cancer actually belonged to someone else. There was a specimen mix-up with another woman at the lab, which caused the faulty diagnosis.