News Stories

Large Tool Left in Man

Donald Church was left in agony for more than two months when surgeons sewed him up after an operation and left a metal tool over a foot long inside him. When he complained that he couldn?t bend over, doctors told him this was to be expected after major surgery. He even set off metal detectors in airports. The University of Washington Medical Center has now paid him almost $100,000.

His first operation was in May 2000, to remove a 13 pound malignant abdominal tumor. The normal surgical practice is to count up the instruments used before closing the patient up, to make sure nothing is left inside the body. However, in this case, a foot-long malleable retractor, which is used to hold a wound open so that surgeons can reach inside it, was somehow overlooked.

Church says, ?There were days when I would just roll up on the floor in the bathroom and sob, because I was in so much pain. I couldn?t figure out what was wrong with me.? He reported the pain to the surgeons at a check-up 30 days after the operation, but they told him not to worry. ?They just told me, ?You went through major surgery ? you?re going to feel some pain for a while.??

But his family doctor detected an oddly-shaped lump during a routine examination. An x-ray clearly showed the presence of the steel rod, and a second operation was carried out to remove it.

Ralph Brindley, his attorney, says, ?I was flabbergasted. ?I?ve handled other cases where foreign bodies are left in, but usually it?s a sponge, something small. When you look at these pictures, it?s like, my God, how could this possibly happen?? Church says that if he ever has another operation, he wants it to be videotaped.

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