• Ranked in Chambers & Legal 500 for Personal Injury & Clinical Negligence
  • Featured in the Times Top Law Firms 2019, 2020 & 2021 List for Personal Injury & Clinical Negligence
  • Over £98 MILLION in damages secured for our clients during lockdown!

Austrian hospital admit amputating wrong leg of patient

  • 16.06.2021
  • JessicaMG
  • Clinical-negligence
  • amputation Clinical negligence medical negligence amputee Never Event wrong site surgery

Surgeons at an Austrian hospital have admitted amputating the wrong leg of a patient, blaming human error for what the hospital called a ‘tragic mistake’.

According to a statement from the Freistadt Clinic, the elderly patient was suffering from many illnesses and previous sickness had affected his legs to the point that his left leg required amputation. The mistake was apparently identified during a bandage change two days after the operation. The clinic said:

“We are deeply shocked that on Tuesday, 18 May, despite quality assurance standards, the wrong leg of an 82-year-old man … was amputated.”

At a recent news conference, the clinic’s medical director, Norbert Fritsch, added: “We have to find out how this failure, this mistake could happen. I would like to apologise publicly here.”

Austrian news outlet Heute reported that the patient did not initially recognise the mistake due to his illness. Apparently the 82-year-old was asked to confirm beforehand, but his articulation was limited. The incorrect leg was then marked for amputation shortly before the surgery took place, according to the clinic.

“Unfortunately the mistake, in which the right leg was removed instead of the left, occurred as a result of a sequence of unfortunate circumstances,” it said, adding that it was investigating what happened and would review its standards.

The man has now been offered psychological assistance. He must still undergo another operation to remove his left leg from mid-thigh, with the clinic confirming that the operation is planned shortly.

Wrong site surgery in England

Wrong site surgery is classed as a Never Event by the NHS i.e. "serious incidents that are entirely preventable because guidance or safety recommendations providing strong systemic protective barriers are available at a national level, and should have been implemented by all healthcare providers". It describes wrong site surgery as “An invasive procedure performed on the wrong patient or at the wrong site (eg wrong knee, eye, limb). The incident is detected at any time after the start of the procedure.” Typical instances includes operations performed on:

  • The wrong knee
  • The wrong limb
  • The wrong eye
  • The wrong internal organ

The issues created by wrong site surgery and the distress that it causes can be life changing and the NHS provides comprehensive guidance to surgical teams on how it should be avoided, including the use of wristbands and checklists. However there are still more than 100 such cases in England each year. In almost all cases, medical negligence will be involved, but even in apparently straightforward cases such as wrong site surgery, bringing a medical negligence claim can be complicated and expert legal advice is vital.

If you or a loved one have suffered due to wrong site surgery, or any other instance of surgical negligence, speak to our specialist Clinical Negligence solicitors today. Call our team on 0800 027 2557 or fill out a contact form and we will get back to you.