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November 20, 2003

Doctors cut wrong ear of hearing-impaired patient

From: Mainichi Shimbun, Japan - Nov 20, 2003

Doctors at a Tokyo hospital started cutting the wrong ear of a patient during an operation before realizing the mistake and having to stitch the ear up, it was learned Thursday.

The Tokyo Medical University Hospital announced the blunder, which occurred at the institution in April while the patient was undergoing surgery for an artificial inner ear implant, on Thursday.

Staff said the patient was confused with another person undergoing surgery on the same day. Doctors realized the error while the operation was being performed, and transplanted the inner ear in the right place. There were no subsequent problems with the patient's condition, they said.

The hospital notified the Tokyo Metropolitan Government of the error on Nov. 14.

Hospital officials said another patient was scheduled to have an operation on the same day and doctors switched the ear section of that patient to be operated on from the right ear to the left ear, but a nurse confused the two patients.

Doctors made a 4-centimeter cut into the first patient'sear before realizing the mistake. They then sewed up the ear and continued the operation on the correctear.

The botched surgery comes on the heels of another incident at the same hospital in October in which a patient was left brain-dead when doctors failed to properly insert a catheter in the patient for a drip.

Hospital director Masahiko Usui offered apologies for the blunder, saying the hospital wanted to prevent recurrences of such incidents through concrete measures such as attaching a mark to the body part that would be operated on. (Mainichi Shimbun, Japan, Nov. 20, 2003)

(c) 2001 The Mainichi Newspapers Co.