Can a doctor amputate the wrong limb?

On Behalf of | Mar 2, 2023 | Medical Malpractice |

Doctors sometimes have the difficult responsibility of advising their patients to amputate a limb to prevent an infection or disease from spreading or worsening. 

Unfortunately, sometimes a doctor can amputate the wrong limb. It may seem like an unthinkable mistake, but the reality is that medical errors do occur, and amputating the wrong limb is not unheard of.

Causes of wrong-limb amputations

Wrong-limb amputations are usually the result of a breakdown in the communication and verification process between the medical team members involved in the surgery.

Other factors that can contribute to wrong-limb amputations include:

  1. Inadequate preoperative evaluation: Failure to properly evaluate and mark the correct limb before surgery can result in the wrong limb being amputated.
  2. Distractions in the operating room: Distractions in the operating room, such as phone calls or conversations between medical personnel, can cause the surgeon to lose focus and amputate the wrong limb.
  3. Poor record-keeping: Inaccurate or incomplete medical records can lead to confusion about which limb needs to be amputated.
  4. Surgeon fatigue: Surgeons working in understaffed hospitals have to work for long hours, which can lead to surgeon fatigue and medical errors.

How can patients protect themselves from wrong limb amputations?

Patients can take proactive steps to protect themselves from the risk of wrong-limb amputations. These steps include:

  • Asking questions: Patients should ask their doctors about the procedure, including which limb will be amputated and how it will affect their daily life.
  • Confirming the correct limb: Before surgery, patients should confirm with their doctor which limb will be amputated, and the doctor should mark the correct limb.
  • Bringing a friend or family member: Patients can bring a friend or family member to the hospital who can act as an advocate and help ensure that the correct limb is amputated.
  • Seeking a second opinion: Patients who are uncertain about their diagnosis or treatment plan can seek a second opinion from another doctor.

Wrong-limb amputations are a serious and potentially devastating form of medical malpractice. In the unfortunate event that this is relevant to you, consider seeking legal guidance before making a claim.