Surgery on the incorrect part of a patient’s body – or “wrong-site surgery” – is rare, occurring just once in 112,994 operations, according to a study cited recently by The Washington Post. Yet they do occur. The Post gave several examples, including the case of a Minnesota man whose healthy kidney was mistakenly removed and the operation on a four-year-old child’s wrong eye.
In a recent article, the newspaper focused on the case of Steve Hanes, a central Pennsylvania man who in 2013 underwent surgery to remove a testicle that had atrophied, with scarring and damage from a previous injury, and was causing him great pain. In a terrible mistake, his surgeon removed the wrong testicle.
The medical error prompted a lawsuit against the surgeon, Dr. Valley Spencer Long, and J.C. Blair Memorial Hospital. The litigation recently concluded with an $870,000 verdict, the first medical malpractice verdict in rural Huntingdon County in at least 25 years. (Records were readily available back to 1992.) The verdict included $250,000 in punitive damages for the reckless nature in which the error was made.
The jury in the case was comprised of 11 women and one man, proving, said Lepisto, proof that gender played no role in a decision to compensate Hanes for an egregious medical error and also to punish the offender. The panel deliberated for about 1 hour 20 minutes before reaching its verdict.
Hanes’ lawyer, Braden Lepisto of the Philadelphia-based law firm Kline & Specter, P.C., told The Post that the award was totally justified because of the toll the operating room error took on his client. Not only was Hanes’ healthy testicle removed, but his ailing, painful testicle remains.
Lepisto told The Post that Hanes so far has avoided seeking further medical treatment. Even if Hanes does have the remaining testicle removed, the attorney said, he would then need lifelong testosterone replacement therapy. And, for obvious reasons, Hanes is fearful of undergoing a second surgery.