Scared Of The Doctor? So Are We

1194453550Since we’re a bunch of overgrown teenagers, we both cringe and giggle when we read coverage of a giant colon or scurrying rats over our morning coffee. But the Globe has recently developed a fascination with surgical errors that has us disgusted and confused.

It began back in August with a piece about brain surgery at a Rhode Island hospital that was done on the wrong side of the patient’s head. A month later, the Globe brought the story closer to home with a report about who pays for botched surgeries.

State Senator Richard T. Moore, an Uxbridge Democrat, has filed legislation that would, among other measures, prohibit hospitals from charging for “never events,” which were developed by the National Quality Forum, a nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C.

In addition to wrong-site surgery and serious medication errors, never events include leaving a foreign object in a surgery patient, discharging a baby to the wrong mother, and falls that result in death or serious disability.

We thought that only happened on TV. Silly us.

At Children’s Hospital Boston in February, a patient who underwent oral surgery, developed labored breathing in the postanesthesia intensive care unit and did not improve despite various interventions. Several hours later, a surgical resident remembered that two sponges placed at the beginning of the operation hadn’t been removed. They were taken out and the patient improved.

If the idea of waking up with surgical equipment inside you doesn’t send you screaming from your physician’s office, today’s report will give you something even more terrifying to ponder.

During gallbladder surgery at North Shore Medical Center four years ago, Antoinette DiPhillipo became a victim of a little-known medical hazard: A flash fire ignited on her midsection.

DiPhillipo’s surgeon rubbed an alcohol-based cleaning solution on her abdomen after her surgery, wiped it clean, and then decided to remove a mole from her stomach with a hot cautery instrument. Blue flames immediately shot up from her midsection – “similar to a flambé,” the surgeon told state public health investigators.

Now we’re going to have nightmares in which zombies dine on our flaming innards.

Our first instinct is to take herbs and bleed ourselves with leeches, but it turns out that the incidents are relatively rare. The paper reports 1 in 87,000 surgeries ends with an intestinal flambé, and in three years only 74 surgical errors were reported for the entire commonwealth of Massachusetts. After giving it some thought, we think we’ll stick with modern medicine.