Surgeon blames defective surgical staple gun for man’s death

A MAN who underwent a routine operation to remove a substantial tumour from his large intestine died from septicaemia due to the malfunction of a surgical instrument, an inquest heard yesterday.

Anthony O’Reilly, 50, of Ballyfallon, Athboy, Co. Meath, died at James Connolly Memorial Hospital on July 13, 2006, three days after a routine operation to remove a large tumour from his rectum, the Dublin County Coroner’s Court heard.

Consultant surgeon at the hospital Eadhbhard Mulligan, who carried out the operation, told the court yesterday that he believed there was an issue with one of the staplers he had used.

Mr Mulligan used two stapling instruments during the operation on July 10 to join up two sections of Mr O’Reilly’s bowel following the removal of the tumour.

A leak developed after the operation however, which caused a virulent infection.

Mr O’Reilly died on July 13 at about 1.30pm in the intensive care unit of the hospital.

Mr Mulligan said he believed the problem was with a stapling device manufactured by Johnson & Johnson but he added it was conjecture.

He told the inquest he had used the other stapling device, a CEEA 31 purse-string instrument, for 10 years and had experienced no problems with it.

The staple gun was withdrawn immediately from the hospital and the matter was reported to the Irish Medicines Board, which is investigating the matter.

“I certainly won’t be using that product again. There’s very little more I can do,” said Mr Mulligan.

The Johnson & Johnson staple gun is widely used worldwide, the inquest heard.

Peter Schroeer, director of quality systems and regulatory affairs at Johnson & Johnson, told the court that this is the second case where a death was reported to the company in relation to the device.

He said the company had carried out tests on the product, but did not find any problem.

Coroner Kieran Geraghty gave the cause of death as septicaemia due to a leak. “There seems to have been a malfunction of a surgical instrument,” he said.

He recorded a verdict of death by misadventure.

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