Medical malpractice can turn your life upside down. Victims are plagued by permanent physical and mental suffering, growing medical bills and long, drawn out lawsuits, while the doctors responsible are often plagued by guilt and nightmares for years to come.
Professional medical personnel are considered some of the smartest and most capable members of our society. Despite that, though, they too succumb to stress, anxiety, and distractions, so big mistakes like the ones below aren't as rare as you would expect.
Here are some of the most shocking medical malpractice cases from the past few years:
1. Bodybuilder Wakes Up With a New Pair of C-Cup Breasts
“Vanity spares no one from the beauty of its own illusion.” — Sorin Cerin, Romanian Philosopher
We’re not sure whether this was true for Alexander Baez, but his strive for physical perfection did indeed get him into trouble.
Baez is a former bodybuilder, ex-Mr. Mexico and also a Mr. Universe runner-up. Back in 1999, he decided to enhance his physique by getting pec implants. Unfortunately for him, destiny decided to introduce him to “Dr.” Reinaldo Silvestre.
Little did Baez know that he was entrusting his pecs to someone without (a) a medical license and (b) a sane mind. Soon after the surgery, the bodybuilder woke up with a brand new pair of C-cup breasts. The surgeon, however, had vanished.
Police later found out that Silvestre was posing as a surgeon using a fake license. He had illegally (and possibly inhumanely) treated over a hundred patients in the past 5 years. Some of his crude methods of “treatment” included using animal-grade anesthetics and kitchen utensils.
Silvestre was eventually caught and charged with two criminal counts. He pleaded guilty and received a seven year prison term.
2. Screwdriver Transplant in Spinal Column Doesn't Do the Trick
Although in unalloyed condition, titanium is as strong as some types of steel and is less dense, allowing for more efficient designs.
Arturo Iturralde was supposed to undergo a standard back surgery to have titanium rods inserted in his spinal column. Soon after the patient was cut open, the attending physician, Dr. Robert Ricketson, realized the rods were nowhere to be found.
Dr. Ricketson didn’t want to abort the operation, so he decided to improvise. He took a nearby screwdriver, removed the handle and used the metal piece to complete the surgery.
Just couple of days after the operation, however, the screwdriver rod broke. Arturo had to undergo several other back operations and was subjected to a great deal of pain during the next two years. He eventually passed away due to this complication.
Arturo’s relatives brought a malpractice suit against Dr. Ricketson. With the help of skilled negligence attorneys, they were awarded $5.6 million in damages.
3. Wrong Leg Amputated Leads to Millions Won
This is the story of a man who “walked out” of the hospital with no legs and became a millionaire back in 1995.
Mr. Willie King was admitted to University Community Hospital in Tampa, Florida, for a surgery to remove one of his legs, because it was badly diseased. When he woke up, one leg was indeed missing, but to his horror, it was the wrong one.
A series of mistakes which started way before King ever got to the OR had led Dr. Ronaldo R. Sanchez to accidentally amputate the patient's one healthy leg. The surgeon's own negligence cost him $10,000 in fines and a six-month suspension of his medical license.
After one of the most famous medical lawsuits in the past 20 years, the hospital paid Mr. King $900,000 and and the surgeon personally paid him another $250,000.
4. Blood Type Disaster
One of the most shocking stories on our list involves 17-year-old Jesica Santillan. Originally from Mexico, she had spent 3 years in the US waiting for a heart and lung transplant.
After many months of strugglе, surgery day finally came and Jesica rolled into the operating room at Duke University Medical Center, in Durham, North Carolina. The procedure itself is quite risky, but even so Jesica was denied a fighting chance right from the start.
She was blood type O, but received organs from someone with blood type A. This simple discrepancy should have been caught, since at least a dozen medical professionals were involved in the transfer. The mistake resulted in her body rejecting the new organs.
Two weeks after the accident Jesica received a second transplant, but it was already too late. Due to complications during the procedure, Jesica entered into a coma and suffered severe brain damage. She was later declared brain dead and taken off life-support.
The hospital admitted that human error was the cause of the accident and Dr. Jaggers personally accepted responsibility for the fatal error. Duke Hospital has since implemented a double-checking system for all transplants to prevent similar accidents.
5. Fertility Clinic Confuses DNA, Mixes Up Baby's Father
Nancy had trouble conceiving, so she turned to in vitro fertilization to have her eggs artificially fertilized. On October 2004, she gave birth to a baby that had significantly darker skin than both her and her partner, Thomas.
It didn’t take long for the parents to realize that something must have gone wrong during the procedure. The subsequent DNA tests revealed that Thomas, who had donated sperm and was looking forward to becoming a father, was not genetically related to the newborn.
After the initial investigation, it was discovered that Nancy’s eggs were inseminated with another man’s sperm. The couple filed a medical malpractice suit against the fertility clinic and the embryologist responsible for the mistake.
6. Preventative Treatment Leads to a Loss of Not One, But Both Testicles
Benjamin Houghton, an Air Force veteran, had seen his fair share of battles during his years in service. Despite all this, life had one more unexpected surprise for him. The pain and shrinkage in his left testicle was diagnosed by doctors to be a sign of cancer.
The surgeons at West Los Angeles VA Medical Center decided it would be best to remove the diseased testicle. An error in the consent form and the surgeon’s failure to mark the correct surgical site resulted in Benjamin losing his healthy right testicle, in a dramatic turn of events similar to the first case on our list above. Since the risk of cancer remained, Benjamin had to undergo a second surgery to remove the left testicle too.
The patient filed a $200,000 lawsuit for negligence against the hospital and the staff involved. Sadly this is not an isolated case, and there have been many similar accidents.
7. Heart Surgery Performed on the Wrong Patient
A 67-year-old woman who was given the pseudonym Joan Morris was admitted to a teaching hospital to have a cerebral angiography performed. The procedure is simple and it involves using a special dye and x-ray scans to see how blood flows through the brain.
After completing the procedure the patient was returned to the wrong room. She was supposed to be discharged on the next day, but was instead rushed into the operating room again.
An hour into the open heart procedure, her treating physician called. The shocked surgeons realized they were operating on the wrong patient. The procedure was cancelled, and Ms. Morris was brought back to her room in a stable condition.
Although there were consequences from the unnecessary procedure, as with every surgery, there was a possible risk of infection, internal bleeding or a stroke. Given her age and condition, Ms. Morris could have suffered complications if the mistake had gone unnoticed for a longer period of time.
If you found this post interesting, you might also enjoy reading "Crazy Medieval Medical Practices Still in Use Today."