Medical malpractice cases are often the result of bizarre and unusual situations. However, many doctors are prepared for this degree of risk and liability, as even the best may need to defend against expensive lawsuits and bizarre medical malpractice cases.

Being the target of an outraged patient’s lawsuit or making a small error during a procedure can have a disastrous effect on a doctor’s finances, career and reputation. This is why consistent and correct insurance is often a requirement for medical professionals.

In many medical malpractice cases, doctors have been sued for demonstrating gross negligence and life-threatening incompetence. In others, patients in bizarre circumstances have had their lawsuits rejected. Here are eight of the craziest medical malpractice cases.

Operating on the Wrong Side

You might be forgiven for making a mistake once, but how about three times? Doctors at Rhode Island Hospital in the United States managed to operate on the wrong side of patients’ brains three separate times within the same year.

Each doctor patched up their incision before moving onto the correct side during their operation. Rhode Island Hospital received expensive fines for these errors and were reprimanded by the state health department.

Amputating the Wrong Leg

Florida man Willie King was scheduled for amputation of his right leg below the knee, due to diabetes-related complications. However, his surgeon Rolando Sanchez managed to make a serious error when he began to saw into and remove King’s left leg instead.

Nurses testified that they informed Sanchez of his mistake mid-way through the procedure but it was too late. The case was eventually settled out of court, with King claiming a total of $1.15 million in damages from Sanchez and the hospital, before going on to have his remaining leg amputated as well.

Left Surgery Tools Inside Patient

In 2017, California woman Mary Harber entered surgery for removal of a benign tumor and was discharged after the successful procedure. However, within two weeks, she re-entered medical care in severe pain.

Doctors soon discovered that a pair of 20cm long surgical forceps had been left inside of Harber during her operation. During the subsequent surgery, almost half a meter of Harber’s small intestine was removed along with the forceps, as it had looped through the handles.

Harber quickly initiated a malpractice lawsuit against the medical center and doctors, which is still to be settled.

IVF Mix-up

New York woman Nancy Andrews planned to conceive a child with her husband using the IVF services of a nearby fertility clinic. Only after her child was born did Andrews realize she had been inseminated with the wrong man’s sperm.

Andrews sued the clinic’s owner Dr. Reginald Puckett for an undisclosed amount, stating she was ‘emotionally devastated’ when she found out that her husband was not the child’s biological father. Read more about the case.

Man Saws Off His Own Hand

Construction worker Thomas Passmore was convinced that his right hand was evil and in 1997 decided to cut it off using a power saw while at work. Passmore was immediately sent into emergency care to reattach the hand, but when he was prepped for surgery refused consent for the procedure to take place.

Lacking consent, hand surgeon Tad Grenga was unable to proceed and instead closed the wound. Passmore soon announced he would sue Grenga and the hospital for $3 million, alleging the doctor should have known he was psychotic and have attempted to reattach the hand against his wishes. The trial lasted nine days, when the jury found in favor of Dr. Grenga after 30 minutes of deliberation.

Medical Dye Blocks Psychic Powers

A malpractice case which achieved international notoriety involved self-professed psychic Judith Haimes, who claimed that an injection of dye which was required for her to undergo a medical scan led to headaches which interfered with her psychic powers.

Haimes sued Temple University Hospital in Philadelphia for injury and malpractice and was awarded a total of $986,000 by the jury. However, this amount was gauged to be excessive and a retrial was ordered by the judge leading to an undisclosed settlement outside of court.

Numb Knee Costs $825,000

In 2012, Oregon man Thomas Illk was preparing for surgery on one of his legs. His anesthesiologist administered a nerve block but had targeted the wrong leg, leading to it being temporarily numbed. The anesthesiologist immediately realized his mistake and informed Illk of the situation before operating.

Illk consented to continuing the operation on the correct leg, which was ultimately successful. However, almost two years later, a week before the expiration of the opportunity to claim wrongdoing, Illk decided to sue the anesthesiologist and medical center for alleged ‘pain and suffering’ from the incident, to the tune of $825,000. Illk’s lawsuit remains unresolved.

Woman’s Fraudulent Malpractice Claims

In 1992, West Virginia resident Shelly McDougal initiated a lawsuit against her doctor, Julia McCammon, alleging that treatment she received for a hysterectomy had led to permanent and disabling nerve damage.

As time progressed, inconsistencies with McDougal’s accounts of her injury and recovery became apparent, although she testified in court that her injuries were so severe she could not walk without a brace.

Due to preliminary evidence that McDougal had recovered, video cameras were secretly installed which captured McDougal carrying heavy boxes down steps, squatting and standing while doing yard work and walking freely outside without a brace. McDougal’s lawsuit was dropped and a countersuit by McCammon was initiated.

In Conclusion

While the above stories are unusual, medical malpractice cases can be common occurrences. Consulting with a qualified insurance broker can help doctors and healthcare professionals find a policy that’s right for their needs.

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Daniel is a writer and researcher from Perth, Western Australia.
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