Picture this: You’re elderly, you’re sick and the only way that doctors can save your life is to amputate your left leg. You grudgingly agree, say goodbye to your limb and let them put you to sleep for the surgery, knowing that your leg will be gone when you wake up.
You wake up from the surgery and look down. The left leg — the diseased one — is still there. The right one is not.
An Austrian clinic has admitted to what it describes as a “tragic mistake,” after doctors amputated the wrong leg from an 82-year-old man in the town of Freistadt on Tuesday.
The patient has several illnesses and both of his legs were affected, but the left one had progressed to the point where it needed to be amputated, doctors said.
They removed the right one instead.
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The Freistadt Clinic blamed the incident on human error in a statement on Thursday.
“We are deeply shocked that on Tuesday, May 18, despite quality assurance standards, the wrong leg of an 82-year old man … was amputated,” the clinic said.
“Unfortunately the mistake, in which the right leg was removed instead of the left, occurred as a result of a sequence of unfortunate circumstances.”
The clinic says the error was made shortly before the operation, when it was time to mark the correct leg for amputation. The doctors cut off his leg at the mid-thigh.
Clinic staff were actually the first ones to notice the error when they went to change the patient’s bandages on Thursday morning. The patient later woke up and learned the bad news.
The clinic says it is investigating the incident and will review its standards to ensure it does not happen again. It has also offered psychological assistance to the patient.
The patient’s ordeal is far from over — doctors still need to remove his left leg.
“The operation is planned shortly,” the clinic said.
The clinic did not address any potential financial compensation for the error.
—With files from Reuters