Medical malpractice: Doctors amputate wrong leg and go to court.
Two Austrian doctors have to answer in Innsbruck for having amputated the wrong leg of a 91-year-old lady. The charge is negligent bodily harm or negligent bodily harm under particularly dangerous circumstances.
91-year-old patient had the wrong leg amputated The 91-year-old patient had to have a leg amputated due to severe vascular disease. On June 16, everything was prepared for an operation in the hospital in St. Johann (Kitzbühel district), but in the end the doctors had amputated the wrong leg. The subsequent investigation initiated by the public prosecutor's office revealed that one of the accused medics had created a faulty surgical plan and the other had set a wrong flag before the operation. There were also serious gaps in the hospital's security system or it was only implemented inconsistently. The surgical team, for example, waived the mandatory “team time-out” that is the order of the day in hospitals and includes a final safety check by the surgical team. The surgeon, anesthetist and OR assistant usually discuss which limbs should be amputated in order to avoid such errors during the operation.
Accusation of negligent bodily harm While the surgeon has to answer for negligent bodily harm under particularly dangerous circumstances, his colleague who created the faulty surgical plan is only on trial for negligent bodily harm, as Hansjörg Mayr, spokesman for the public prosecutor, announced. The trial is expected to take place in November.
Doctors have neglected their professional duty of care Immediately after amputating the 91-year-old's wrong leg, the doctors noticed their mistake and removed the woman's second leg a few days later. While general medical errors are often not that easy to understand, the situation in the present case is quite clear. Ordinarily, judges must base their judgment on the understandable findings of medical experts to assess whether or not there has been a malpractice. In Germany, for example, the definition of negligence in Section 276 (2) of the German Civil Code (BGB) is used as the benchmark for the presence of a treatment error. So the doctor is obliged to the patient to observe the professional care required. According to the indictment, this was probably not the case in the St. Johann hospital in the current case, so that the fatal amputation of the wrong leg could result. (fp, October 13, 2010)
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