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A New Zealand Neurosurgeon Mistakenly Operated on the Wrong Part of a Patient’s Skull

A health official is now demanding the doctor to apologise for the nightmarish medical error.

by Meera Navlakha
24 September 2019, 8:28am

Photo by Unsplash user Piron Guillaume


Brain surgery is one of the most complicated medical procedures out there and must be done very precisely. That’s exactly why a doctor in New Zealand who failed to do just that is now in very hot water.

Yesterday, the country’s Health and Disability Commissioner Anthony Hill released a report about a neurosurgeon who was found to have cut open the wrong part of a patient’s skull in 2015, The New Zealand Herald reported.

The patient, referred to in the report as Mr. A, had been diagnosed with cancer and needed a tumour removed from his brain. The doctor, who remains unnamed, used a guidance machine that pointed out where he needed to cut but after the first incision was made, he realised that the machine was inaccurate. The doctor could not use skin markings placed on the patient’s head to guide him because they had washed off.

He continued with the surgery, even extending the bone opening believing it would lead him to the correct area. But it did not, and so he stopped the operation. Mr. A received radiotherapy after the surgery, but eventually died.

Hill, the Health and Disability commissioner, is now demanding the doctor to apologise to the patient’s family for the medical error.

In his report, Hill said the neurosurgeon breached the Code of Health and Disability Services Consumers’ Rights. He acknowledged that the surgery was a complex one but believed the doctor could have carried out further checks before making the initial incision.

“Taking the time to undertake any checks available to ascertain that the surgeon is in the right place before proceeding with such surgery is paramount,” Hill said.

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