St. Louis Hospital Admits Brain-Surgery Mistake


Posted on 30th April 2013 by gjohnson in Uncategorized

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I haven’t seen this very often in my career as a traumatic brain injury lawyer: A hospital making a lengthy apology after being sued for medical malpractice.

The hospital chain involved as SSM Health Care-St. Louis, which last Friday was sued for allegedly operating on the wrong side of a patient’s brain. Actually, I can take out the “allegedly,” since the hospital quickly owned-up to the error.

Here’s what happened. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch wrote story Tuesday saying that a suit had been filed against SSM Health Care on behalf of Regina Turner, 53. She had been slated to have a left-sided craniotomy bypass on April 4 at SSM St. Clare Health Center (part of SSM Health Care) in Fenton, Mo. Instead, the surgery was done on the right side of her brain, the Post-Dispatch reported.

The malpractice lawsuit, which also named neurosurgeon “A.L.” as a defendant, claims that doctors performed a second surgery, on the correct side of Turner’s brain, six days after the mishap in the operating room, according to the St. Louis newspaper.

Now Turner can’t speak intelligibly, needs constant care, and is suffering from anxiety and depression, the suit says.

Perhaps to deflect some of the bad publicity about the malpractice suit, after the Post-Dispatch story appeared SSM Health Care admitted that its neurosurgeon and medical team had operated on the wrong side of Turner’s brain.

According to the newspaper, SSM Health Care President and CEO Chris Howard issued a long statement about Turner’s case. First of all, Howard apologized for “the wrong-site surgery in our operating room.”

“This was a breakdown in our procedures, and it absolutely should not have happened,” Howard said. “We have since taken steps to be even more vigilant to prevent such an error from happening again. Medicine is a human endeavor, and sadly, people and systems are not perfect. When an error occurs, it is tragic for the patient, their loved ones and the medical team.”

It will be interesting to see what kind of a settlement comes out of this mess.