Austrian surgeon fined €2,700 for amputating wrong leg of patient

Surgeon amputated an elderly patient’s right leg instead of left, in what she says was ‘human error’

Sravasti Dasgupta
Thursday 02 December 2021 08:43
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Related video: 4-year-old amputee hikes 3,560-foot mountain

A court in Austria has fined a surgeon €2,700 (£2,296) for amputating the wrong leg of a patient.

The incident took place on 18 May, when the surgeon at the Freistadt Clinic, in a town of the same name near the Czech border, amputated the right, instead of the left leg of the 82-year-old patient.

The patient required his left leg to be amputated as a result of previous illnesses, according to a statement by the clinic in May.

The clinic said the mistake was noticed two days after the surgery during a bandage change.

The patient was asked to confirm the leg to be amputated beforehand, but due to his illnesses his articulation was limited, Austrian news outlet Heute reported in May.

Freistadt Clinic’s medical director Norbert Fritsch issued a public apology for the mistake and promised to probe the incident.

The patient was later offered psychological assistance and had to undergo another operation to remove his left leg from the mid-thigh.

In Linz Regional Court, the surgeon said that her actions were a “human error.” She added that it was not just an individual mistake but that there was a flaw in the chain of control in the operation theatre.

When she was asked in court why she had marked the right leg and not the left, she said, “I just don’t know,” reported local news agency Kurier.

The court on Wednesday found the surgeon guilty of gross negligence and imposed the fine, with half the amount suspended, said a spokesperson for the court.

It has also awarded €5,000 (£4259) in damages to the widow of the patient who died before the case came to court.

In a statement, the clinic said, “the causes and circumstances of this medical error have been analysed in detail,” internal procedures discussed with the team and training has been provided, reported The Guardian.

The surgeon, who was moved to another clinic, can appeal the judgment in a higher court.

In March, another hospital in Austria, the St Lucia’s OKEU hospital said it was investigating a report of a similarly mistaken leg amputation.

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