Surgeon Fined for Amputating Wrong Leg

Austrian surgeon blamed a problem with the chain of command
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 2, 2021 4:58 AM CST
Surgeon Who Amputated Wrong Leg Fined $3K
The surgeon said there had been a problem with the chain of command.   (Getty Images/ShutterOK)

A surgeon in Austria who removed the wrong leg from an elderly patient earlier this year in what the hospital called a "tragic mistake" has been fined the equivalent of around $3,000, with half of it suspended. A court found the 43-year-old surgeon guilty of gross negligence, the BBC reports. She told the court that there had been a problem with the chain of command in the operating theater and she "just didn't know" why she had marked the 82-year-old's right leg for amputation instead of his left one. Hospital officials said the man was asked to confirm which leg had to be removed, but illness limited his ability to speak.

The mistake wasn't detected until the man returned for a bandage change two days after the operation in May. He was told he would still have to have his left leg amputated as well. The man died before the case came to court, but his widow was awarded around $5,600 in damages. The surgeon now works at a different clinic. The hospital in the northern city of Freistadt described the error as the "result of a sequence of unfortunate circumstances," per AFP. "The causes and circumstances of this medical error have been analysed in detail," the hospital said in a statement. (Read more surgery stories.)

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