Wrong kidney removed due to ‘human error’

ONE of the country’s top paediatric consultants has admitted he was responsible for a “human error” which led to the wrong kidney being removed from a young boy at Our Lady’s Hospital for Sick Children in Crumlin in 2008.

Professor Martin Corbally, consultant paediatric surgeon, told a hearing of the Irish Medical Council that during an outpatients’ clinic on January 17, 2008, he had mistakenly written down the wrong kidney to be removed from the patient.

The IMC’s Fitness to Practise Committee has heard that no doctor at Our Lady’s had subsequently looked at the boy’s X-rays before the operation to remove the kidney on March 21, 2008.

Prof Corbally said no X-rays were in the patient’s file in January, which he claimed was a common occurrence at the hospital. He pointed out there were serious problems with medical records at Our Lady’s with some 18,000 reports and letters still unfiled earlier this year.

Prof Corbally and a junior surgeon, Sri Paran, are facing a series of charges of professional misconduct in relation to the incident.

Yesterday, Prof Corbally said he presumed he had been distracted when he incorrectly recorded in a handwritten note during the outpatients’ clinic that the left kidney should be removed.

He fully accepted the parents’ evidence that he had correctly recommended that the right-side kidney should be removed.

Prof Corbally said he was “amazed” to learn that the boy’s parents had repeatedly expressed concern to other medical staff prior to surgery that the wrong kidney was being taken out. He only became aware about such concerns after the operation when he had unsuccessfully tried to re-implant the functioning organ.

“It is a great pity and sadness to me that the parents’ concerns were not listened to in significant detail,” remarked the surgeon.

Prof Corbally said he was “personally devastated” by the entire event as he felt that he, his surgical team and the hospital had failed the boy and his family.

“As a paediatric surgeon, it is not what we are here to do, we are here to help children and their families and improve their standard of life.”

He described the “sad and difficult task” of meeting the boy’s parents to explain that the wrong kidney had been removed and to apologise “profoundly and profusely” for what had happened.

“The memory of that conversation will live with me for a long time,” remarked Prof Corbally, recalling how the parents were “distraught and devastated” at the news.

Prof Corbally also remarked how he had a busy and demanding schedule at Our Lady’s with a regular working week of up to 80 hours in sometimes poor facilities and antiquated buildings. On average, he performs 1,200 operations each year.

While he described Mr Paran, who actually carried out the operation as “an extremely talented and competent surgeon,” he said his colleague should have checked the patient’s X-rays to ensure the correct kidney was being removed.

The committee heard there is a major dispute between the two surgeons about the amount of notice Prof Corbally gave to Mr Paran that he would be performing the operation. Mr Paran claims he was only notified five minutes before the operation, while Prof Corbally insists he had been informed at least 30 minutes in advance.

The inquiry continues today.


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