It is inevitable that doctors will make a mistake among the thousands of patients they treat every year.
There are also thousands of malpractice cases filed each year due to incorrect or inappropriate diagnoses, botched surgeries, or prescription mishaps.
However, in some cases, doctors removed organs that were not quite right, switched the wrong type of life-saving blood, or performed operations that were not necessary at all.
Here are six of the worst surgical errors in the history of American medicine.
The man who removed the wrong testicle
An Air Force veteran had an undescended testicle when he suspected he had testicular cancer
In 2006, Benjamin Houghton, a 47-year-old Air Force veteran, went to a Veterans Affairs hospital to have his potentially cancerous left testicle removed.
The father-of-four had previously suffered from testicular cancer – which affects one in 250 men – and sought help from the VA Hospital in Los Angeles.
However, according to records and a claim made by Mr Houghton’s wife, the surgeon mistakenly removed his right testicle after the team failed to identify the correct body part.
Because a healthy testicle was producing testosterone, this made Houghton vulnerable to low testosterone, which has been linked to complications such as erectile dysfunction, fatigue, weight gain, depression, memory problems, and osteoporosis.
“I thought it was a joke,” Houghton told the Los Angeles Times. “Then I was shocked.” So I said to them: What should I do now?
Mr. Houghton and his family sued the Department of Veterans Affairs for impotence, depression, and osteoporosis that occurred as a result of the error. They received a $200,000 settlement.
The teenager who suffered brain damage after receiving the wrong blood
Jessica Satylan of North Carolina suffered irreversible brain damage after she received organs with the wrong blood type
Jessica Satylan was 17 years old when she underwent a heart and lung transplant in 2003.
The lungs become weak as a result of cardiomyopathy, a disease that weakens the heart muscle, making it thicker and stiffer. This makes it difficult to pump blood through the rest of the body, which can lead to multiple organ failure.
When she received the transplant at Duke University Medical Center in North Carolina, she was given organs with the wrong blood type. Her body then rejected these organs, shutting down the rest of her body.
Doctors did not realize what was wrong until the surgery was almost complete.
Although she received a new set of organs with the right blood, Ms Satilan suffered irreversible brain damage. She died two days after being taken off life support.
The family reached a confidential settlement in 2004.
A woman who had her breast implants removed unnecessarily
A New York City hospital misinterpreted Eduvigis Rodriguez’s test results and thought she had breast cancer
In 2005, Eduvigis Rodriguez, 49, was diagnosed with breast cancer — which affects 300,000 American women every year — after doctors discovered a lump in her breast.
However, doctors at Mount Sinai Beth Israel Hospital in New York City misinterpreted the results as cancerous when they were not.
Instead, she had sclerosing adenomyosis, a benign condition that causes an increase in breast tissue.
Ms Rodriguez was sent to nearby Lenox Hill Hospital, where she underwent a mastectomy – the complete removal of her left breast. The doctors at Lenox Hill failed to check the pathology report to confirm that she had cancer.
The surgery left Ms Rodriguez suffering from a pulmonary embolism – a blockage in the pulmonary arteries, which send blood to the lungs – blood clots, and a hernia.
She sued the hospital for expenses and pain and suffering.
“I want justice, and I want explanations. I don’t want to see this happen to anyone else. I had faith in the surgeons and the hospitals, but I can’t believe all the mistakes that were made,” Rodriguez said.
An elderly patient who underwent unnecessary brain surgery
An elderly woman in Michigan died after having unnecessary brain surgery due to a file mix-up
Bilma Nayar, 81 at the time, needed surgery to repair her dislocated jaw in 2012.
When she sought care at Oakwood Hospital in Dearborn, Michigan, just outside Detroit, doctors performed a craniotomy. This involves removing part of the bone from the skull to access the brain.
The doctors claimed the problem was due to a medical records mix-up, which occurred when another patient’s records were placed in Ms Nayyar’s file.
The team expected she would suffer a brain bleed, but when that didn’t happen, they realized she didn’t need brain surgery.
Mrs Nayyar developed complications and died two months later. Although the jury initially awarded her family $20 million, the verdict was overturned for technical reasons.
The man whose leg was amputated after a wrong biopsy was taken
A man in Rhode Island had to have his leg amputated after he had a bone marrow transplant while not taking blood thinners, which led to gangrene.
In 2010, Peter Sfamini’s doctors suspected he might have lymphoma, a cancer of the lymphatic system, the body’s germ-fighting network.
It affects approximately 90,000 Americans each year and kills about 20,000.
The 55-year-old went to the emergency room at Rhode Island Hospital, complaining of lower back pain, fatigue, and weight loss. He was taking medications to treat a blood clotting disorder.
Doctors took Mr. Stamini off blood thinners to prepare him for a colonoscopy and lymph node biopsy. However, they performed a bone marrow biopsy instead.
He developed blood clots in his legs and lungs, which led to gangrene — the death of body tissue — in his right leg. The leg had to be amputated.
In 2017, Mr. Sfamini received a $61.6 million settlement.
The man whose wrong foot was amputated
Willie King of Florida had the wrong foot removed and later had to have the right foot removed as well
Florida native Willie King was scheduled to have his leg amputated in 1995 as a result of complications from diabetes, which he had been diagnosed with 20 years earlier.
Mr. King went to University Community Hospital in Tampa for the procedure, where doctors cut off the wrong foot.
When he woke up, he told the doctor: “This is the wrong leg.”
“When I came back and realized I lost a good person, it was a shock, a real shock,” King told the Tampa Bay Times.
“I really wanted someone to come up to me and tell me a mistake had been made.”
Mr. King was taken to Tampa General Hospital, where medical staff attempted to save his right foot. He chose to cut off the rest of the foot at the calf to avoid further painful procedures.
Doctors claimed his legs were bad, but Mr King sued the hospital. He received a $1.15 settlement and had his bad foot removed elsewhere.