He Cut Into the Wrong Foot…

Or, How I Spent My Summer Vacation

A few weeks back, I disappeared from the blog.  I was in the hospital with a foot infection.  Look down at your right foot.  Yeah, that one.  It’s an important part of the story.

I only mention this, because I think it’s an interesting story.  I always withhold biographical information, since some folks like to use it against others.  Besides, the internet isn’t all about me. But this is a story I don’t mind telling. 

On July 13th, I signed informed consent to have my right foot operated on.  Not a big procedure at all.  I also had a small injury to my left foot, but I had already seen my podiatrist about it the previous week.

On the day of the surgery, the doctor did his job on my right foot, just below the spot where he scribbled his initials in ink on my right foot hours before.  They do that now, just to avoid mistakes.

operate here

As we all know, everybody else’s right foot appears on our left side.

When he was done, he looked over at my left foot — the one he did not have permission to work on, and apparently said to himself “Hmm. That foot needs my attention.”  He cut into it, but didn’t do any major damage.  He didn’t transfer the infection from one foot to another, though he didn’t scrub up again or put on new gloves.

I was under general anesthesia. Out cold.

I quizzed him about it later, and he said because my wife wasn’t in the hospital to give permission, he just went ahead.  Raise your right hand if you think my wife carries her phone everywhere.  


The surgeon did not seem to understand the significance of my concern.  

I tried my best teacher voice to get him to understand that “Surgeon Operates on Wrong Foot” makes a great legal strategy and a terrific headline for the local TV and radio stations.  He did not get it.


I’m curious about the thoughts of others on this.  Do you have a similar story?  How far should I take this?  


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9 Responses to He Cut Into the Wrong Foot…

  1. gmhowell says:

    Did he do anything or just open it up?

    Personally, I’d make sure neither I nor my insurance was billed; you didn’t consent to the work on the left foot. You didn’t agree to pay for it.

    Now, if he tries to make you pay (or the hospital, anesthetist, or ANYONE else) for the extra work, sue the doctor, the hospital, everyone who read the pre surgical notes, was in the OR, and didn’t try to stop him.

    Call one of those jackasses on tv and let him have his 1/3-1/2 contingency.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. gmhowell says:

    Oh, forgot to add: it wasn’t life saving surgery. If it was, say ‘thank you’ and ask if he takes plastic (that’s more for readers. Clearly not the case with your left foot).


  3. Mrs. Whatsit says:

    Wow. I’ve never seen doctors do anything that wasn’t on the surgical plan, certainly never on a different extremity, without another set of signed permissions. They’ll have a nurse chase down the next of kin to get the paperwork signed.
    He was probably trying to be nice, but that doc really took a risk.


  4. Jeanette Victoria says:

    If there was no permanent damage you can’t take it anywhere. But I’d refused to pay for the extra service. But be prepaid for a ding on your credit.


  5. Actually, you can take it somewhere, just not as far as if there was some damage. It was, technically and legally, assault and battery. You might have your lawyer have a nice chat with the hospital, and instead of asking for money, since it’s not a real damamge issue, ask for some sort of CE or something to remind certain staff not to do anything without the patient’s permission. A sort of “I’m suing to make sure it doesn’t happen to anyone else who might have a long term issue because of it.”

    If I’d known that my job was going to be phased out within six months, I would have had a lawyer going after my last employer, who seriously screwed up treating my daughter’s migraine, such that we left after six hours with her in worse shape than when we came in. I called the Patient Advocate a few days later, and two weeks after that I had the head ED nurse in my office apologizing for half an hour telling me that what had been done had been against policy and protocols, and that they were going to be having several inservices to remind staff not to do this. The next day I had the head ED doctor in my office doing the same thing. Which was a real clue that this wasn’t a “Near Miss Event” because the actions had reached the patient, and might have harmed her, and they felt that it might have left them open to litigation.

    What happened to your foot was certainly an Adverse Event. It may even fall under the Never Event calssification. (Wrong site surgery) That no lasting harm was done is not really the point. The fact was that the doctor did something he should not have done.

    Some years back I was having arthroscopic wrist surgery to clear out debris, and in the week between when i signed the operative consent forms and when I went in I developed a ganglion. The surgeon agreed he should remove it, but he made me repeat my permission in front of the operating room nurses before they sedated me, because it wasn’t listed on the operative form, even though it was the same wrist, and in all likelihood even going to be the same incisions.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. The readers here have mentioned all of my options. The words ‘patient advocate’ and “medical board” are spot on. I’ll comment more later.


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