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Doctor Removes Wrong Kidney: A Reminder About Wrong-Site Surgeries

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By Brett Snider, Esq. on December 04, 2014 3:31 PM

The human body typically bears only two kidneys, but a California surgeon has been placed on probation for removing the wrong one from a federal inmate.

In 2012, Dr. Charles Coonan Streit, a surgeon at St. Jude Medical Center in Fullerton, California, erroneously removed a healthy kidney from a 59-year-old incarcerated male. According to the Orange County Register, Streit was supposed to remove the tumor-ridden left kidney from the patient, but left the CT scans of the kidneys back at the office.

What's Dr. Streit liable for and what should patients know about wrong-site surgeries?

Calif. Medical Board Gives Probation

After removing a healthy kidney from a patient and leaving the diseased one, you might think that Dr. Streit wouldn't be picking up a scalpel again. Not so fast, says the California Medical Board. Despite the fact that the Board found Streit "relied on memory to decide which kidney to remove," his discipline was three years of probation, reports the Register.

Doctors, lawyers, and many other professionals maintain their abilities to practice by abiding by certain levels of professional responsibility. The California Medical Board is charged with reviewing complaints of misconduct by medical professionals and issuing discipline when appropriate. In its disciplinary decision for Streit, the Board placed Streit on three years of probation, meaning he can still practice medicine as long as he:

  • Completes a wrong-site surgery course,
  • Notifies hospitals and medical facilities of his probation,
  • Ceases supervision of physician assistants, and
  • Makes quarterly reports to the Board.

The terms sound very similar to criminal probation, but in this case, if Streit violates these terms, he could actually lose his license.

Wrong-Site Surgical Errors Do Happen

As horrible as it sounds, these sort of wrong-site/wrong-side surgical errors do happen. They are one of a handful of medical mistakes that are entirely preventable but incredibly damaging. In Streit's case, it was the surgeon's "sole obligation" to review diagnostic images of the inmate's kidneys before operating.

If you've been the victim of a wrong-site or even wrong-person surgery, a malpractice attorney can help you pursue compensation for an otherwise confusing and upsetting situation.

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