The Worst Medical Malpractice Stories in History

Medical malpractice cases are uncommon. The vast majority of the 30 million surgeries performed in the US every year go off without a hitch, but botched operations and diagnoses do happen, and when they do, they can be devastating to patients and their families.

There are any number of examples of medical malpractice - some of them are unexplainable incidences, and others are totally preventable. Often, when something goes horribly awry, it's as simple as a doctor operating on the wrong one in a pair, like a leg or a kidney. Sometimes information is transcribed wrong, or a chart is confused with a similar patient. Mistakes do happen, and when they do, lawyers are called and settlements agreed upon.

But sometimes a mistake is so sloppy, craven, or lazy that it defies any obvious explanation other than "the doctor just wasn't paying enough attention." Huge medical instruments are left in patients, nurses don't take the time to wash their hands, nobody checks on a person in an ER, and in one tragic case, a girl gets organs that are incompatible with her blood type.

Here are some of the worst medical malpractice cases in history. Each and every one is a cautionary tale for asking questions at the doctor and confirming that all your medical information is accurate.

  • Surgeons Removed The Wrong Rib From A Cancer Patient

    Yale-New Haven Medical Center surgeons operated on Deborah Craven in May 2015, removing potentially cancerous portions of one of her ribs. Except instead they removed a different rib altogether and Craven claims they lied to her, trying to cover up the mistake before rushing her back into surgery the same day to correct it.

    She sued the hospital and many of the surgeons, claiming negligence.

  • Rhode Island Hospital Botched Brain Surgeries

    Providence’s Rhode Island Hospital didn't just botch brain surgery on one patient, three doctors there botched it on three patients - all in the same way. In 2007, the hospital was fined $50,000 for the third instance of brain surgery being performed on the wrong side of a patient's brain.

    Astonishingly, two of the patients were fine, but the other passed, prompting an investigation and the fine.

  • Carl Beauchamp's Symptoms Went Unnoticed

    Rhode Island Hospital failed another patient, Carl Beauchamp, in 2009. Beauchamp was admitted after hitting his head, and the staff essentially did everything wrong after that, misdiagnosing him, failing to check on him, neglecting to notice his condition worsening, and not performing necessary exams.

    Beauchamp was left with debilitating damage as a result, and in 2015, his family won an eight-figure judgment against the notorious hospital.

  • Pec Implants Became Breast Implants

    In 1999, bodybuilder and former Mr. Mexico Alexander Baez fell prey to a scheme conducted by a fake doctor when he went in for pectoral implants - and came out with female breast implants. The fake doctor, Reinaldo Silvestre (pictured), had apparently butchered a number of other patients before police finally caught up with him.

    When they did, he was ordered to pay out nearly $5 million.

  • Anesthesia Wore Off During Eye Surgery

    The term "anesthesia awareness" doesn't do the nightmare of waking up during surgery justice. While rare, it does happen in about one to two out of every 1,000 patients who are given a general sedative to knock them out during surgery. Carol Weihrer was one such patient, waking up while having her eye operated on, hearing surgeons say things like "Cut deeper" and "Pull harder." She felt no pain since the sedative and pain-blocking substances are different, but she was left with PTSD and an inability to sleep horizontally.

    She then sued the hospital and won an undisclosed judgment.

  • Willie King Lost The Wrong Leg

    Diabetic construction worker Willie King went into the hospital to have his left leg removed below the knee, as it was becoming gangrenous. But a chain of mistakes began almost immediately, as the scheduler wrote down that King was to lose his right leg. The mistake was never caught and doctors indeed removed the wrong leg. He later had the left leg removed at a different hospital, and received a total of $1.15 million in compensation after suing the original hospital.

    The doctor who performed the original incorrect surgery on King struck again months later when he removed the toe of a woman without her consent. He was fined and suspended.