Going to the doctors to receive medical treatment can be very stressful, especially if the patient is going in for surgery. When patients see a doctor for medical treatment they expect that treatment will meet the proper standards of care. A surgeon operating on the wrong side of a patient is a serious deviation from the proper standard of care and is medical malpractice. Unfortunately this surgical error happens more often than you may think. One hospital accrediting group estimates that operations on the wrong side of the patient happens about 40 times per week.
One woman in Maryland experienced this first hand when her obstetrician removed the wrong ovary during surgery. The woman, Nadege Neim, who was pregnant at the time, went to Dr. Maureen Muoneke, her gynecologist, for an ultrasound which revealed a mass on her left ovary. Dr. Muoneke advised that the mass was probably benign however it could grow or become malignant. After a second ultrasound three months later showed that the mass was still there but her right side was fine, Dr. Muoneke recommended that Neim have the mass removed.
When Dr. Muoneke performed the surgery however she did not remove the tumor that was on her left side but instead removed the entire ovary and fallopian tube on Neim’s right side. After the surgery, Niem went for a fallow-up and complained of pelvic pain on her right side. After Dr. Muoneke reviewed the pathology report she did not say anything to Neim about the mistake she made during surgery. Niem did not find out about the error until she went to another hospital’s emergency room due to the pelvic pain she was experiencing on her right side.
The lawsuit went to a jury trial. At the trial, Neim’s new gynecologist testified that during surgery Dr. Muoneke removed the wrong ovary. The jury awarded Neim $1.42 million. This surgical error left Neim with diminished fertility and facing another surgical procedure to treat her only remaining ovary.
Surgical errors such as wrong side surgeries can be prevented with simple checks by hospitals, such as making sure x-rays are not flipped. However this type of error still occurs and sometimes filing a medical malpractice lawsuit and forcing doctors and hospitals to be financially responsible for the harm their negligence has caused is the only way to ensure that negligent doctors and hospitals will be more diligent in the future.
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