Surgeon in a rush removes wrong kidney

A doctor in the UK removed the wrong kidney from a patient and left her dependent on dialysis because he did not bother to read her medical notes.

At a disciplinary hearing yesterday the General Medical Council was told that Jerome Blanchard took out his patient's transplant kidney, which was still functioning, instead of her diseased natural kidney.

Both of the patients kidneys were on the patient's right side, and she had apparently told the surgeon that it was the painful polycystic organ that was to be removed.

The panel which assesses the fitness of doctors to practise was also told that Dr. Blanchard did not bother to discuss the operation properly with the woman when obtaining her consent for surgery at the Middlesex Hospital, Central London, in March 2004.

It appears that had Dr. Blanchard discussed the operation sufficiently with the patient it would have been clear what operation needed to be performed.

The patient was given the impression that Dr. Blanchard was in a hurry as he examined her and while he was doing so she told him it was her enlarged polycystic kidney that was to be removed and she demonstrated where it was.

The GMC panel were told that it was only when the patient's daughter noticed after surgery that there was no catheter to support the transplant kidney that Dr. Blanchard realised that he had taken out the wrong organ.

It seems the transplanted kidney, which the patient received in 1994, was going to have to be removed eventually, but the patient still had ample time before that needed to be done.

The panel were told other factors, including confusion on the theatre list, also contributed to the wrong organ being removed.

The patient is a a 57-year-old mother of three who is now on dialysis for four hours three times a week.

She has a degenerative disease which leads to multiple cysts forming on her kidneys and had a transplant in 1994.

She says the diseased kidney needed to be removed because she was in constant pain and had a swollen stomach.

She had been expecting to see Dr. Blanchard the evening she went into hospital but did not see him until shortly before the operation the next day, after she attended an outpatient appointment for a thyroid condition.

Dr. Blanchard, who qualified in France in 1991, did not read the woman's records or discuss the procedure properly when they met briefly before the operation.

Dr. Blanchard, a surgeon at the Middlesex Hospital, removed the functioning transplanted kidney instead of the natural one in March 2004.

The woman inadvertently signed a consent form on which Dr. Blanchard had written that he was removing the transplanted kidney, but she did not notice this as he had abbreviated the word to tx.

She was shocked and upset to learn of the mistake and is now on the list for another transplant but does not know how long it will be before another kidney becomes available.

Dr. Blanchard has admitted to removing the wrong kidney but denies misconduct relating to a failure properly to discuss the procedure with the patient or ensuring that he was performing the appropriate surgery and not acting in the best interests of the patient.

The hearing continues.

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