We failed kidney op boy, says surgeon
'Distracted' doctor admits notes blunder
Published 03/09/2010 | 05:00
A DOCTOR yesterday admitted he and a leading hospital failed a child after the wrong kidney was removed from the boy due to human error -- despite his parents' concerns before the operation.
Professor Martin Corbally from Our Lady's Children's Hospital in Crumlin, Dublin, said he must have been distracted when he wrongly noted down that the young boy needed to have his fully healthy left kidney removed -- instead of his right one.
"I must say that I had let this child down, I felt the surgical team had let this child down and I felt in addition the hospital had let the child down and, again, I apologise to the parents for the trauma," he said.
Yesterday was the third day of a hearing by the Fitness to Practise committee of the Irish Medical Council to look into allegations of professional misconduct against the two doctors involved -- Prof Corbally and registrar Sri Paran -- in the operation on March 21, 2008.
The young boy was under the care of Prof Corbally, a consultant paediatric surgeon, who had incorrectly identified the healthy kidney for removal. The operation was carried out by Mr Paran.
The committee heard yesterday how in a meeting with Jennifer Stewart and her husband Oliver Conroy, the parents of the child, two months before the operation, Prof Corbally had told them he was recommending a nephrectomy -- the removal of a kidney -- on the right-hand side.
However, he then wrote down the left-hand side.
"I believe I recommended a right nephrectomy but I erroneously recorded a left nephrectomy," he said.
"I may have been distracted. I presume I was distracted in some form or another and got the side wrong."
The parents of the child say they had concerns about which organ was to be removed right up to the final minutes before the operation and made those worries clear to staff.
However, the operation went ahead and the wrong kidney was removed.
Prof Corbally said the first he knew of the concerns of the parents was after the operation had taken place.
"There should be a series of brakes. And the brakes should be applied when the red flag goes up and the red flag is when the parents express concern," Prof Corbally said.
"It is a great pity and sadness to me that the parents concerned were not adhered to or not listened to."
Prof Corbally said he had realised something was wrong when he was standing at the door of the theatre at the end of the operation and asked Mr Paran whether he had consulted the X-rays to be sure the right kidney was picked. Mr Paran said he had not.
After the operation, Prof Corbally said he had the "sad and difficult" task of telling the parents of the mistake.
"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."
There are sharp differences over how events unfolded.
Prof Corbally said he intended to do the operation but was unable to on the day and delegated it. He said Mr Paran was asked if he would like to do the operation and seemed pleased.
But Charles Meenan, counsel for Mr Paran, said he was only told of the operation five minutes beforehand and felt he was not in a position to say no.
The committee heard there is a problem in the hospital of unfiled X-ray reports and letters. An official report was not available when Prof Corbally made the original mistake.
There are 18,000 unfiled reports and letters in the Crumlin system as of February this year, Prof Corbally said.
He said he and a colleague had met with senior management before the incident and there is a significant delay in filing reports and that a "crisis was waiting to happen".
The hearing continues today.