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Letter: The Damage Caused by Propaganda

doi: 10.1097/01.EEM.0000398971.55021.a6
Letter

Editor:

Thank you for your articles regarding the ridiculous expectation of perfection by physicians. Anyone who has spent any time with their eyes open in a busy ED will be fully aware of the challenges we face.

In Dr. George Hossfeld's April 6 EMNow article on full error disclosure (http://bit.ly/HossfeldDisclosure), he refers to the surgeon who amputated the wrong leg. I remember hearing about that case, and continued to follow it after the media furor died down. As I recall (imperfectly, to be sure), the Florida surgeon was operating on an elderly patient with multiple comorbidities and chronic circulatory deficiencies in both legs. The facts of the case that I can recall are that both of the patient's legs were in terrible condition, and that the other leg would have needed amputation only a couple of weeks later. Even in this media-darling case, the facts were obfuscated to portray the surgeon as completely incompetent, as if one leg were completely healthy and normal, and the surgeon negligently took that one of instead of the other obviously (and isolated) necrotic one.

Certainly wrong-limb surgery should be avoided at all times, and OR and procedural time-outs are a fantastic safety net, but as with the Institute of Medicine report, these stories are rarely told fairly or completely. I thank Dr. Hossfeld for his efforts to educate the medical profession and the general lay community about the damage that such propaganda causes.

Noam Gilboa, MD

Pittsburgh, PA

Read an article about the wrong limb surgery to which Dr. Gilboa refers athttp://bit.ly/Amputation.

© 2011 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.