The hospital stuff-up of nightmares started with a mistake on one form.
Surgeons at Yass Hospital in New South Wales read the consent form only and started surgery believing their job was to replace Lima Ray Thatcher’s left hip.
All the other paperwork, including the referral from a general practitioner and admissions forms, said it was the right hip.
The surgeons eventually realised the mistake and then carried out a hip replacement under the same anaesthetic.
The total time of the operation was about three and a half hours, more than twice as long as it should have been.
Thatcher, a 86-year-old dementia sufferer, died nine days later.
Her family was shocked by the fact that they had not been told when the operation would be performed.
They were unaware until a telephone call about the mix up, seeking permission to replace the second hip.
The family was told the surgery had been successful, without complications, but that elderly people did not tolerate major stresses well.
The case came to light when the family asked the Supreme Court in the Australian Capital Territory to order an official inquiry.
The court rejected the application by the patient’s granddaughters, Kate and Holly Chaloner, on the grounds that there was no evidence that the surgical mistake had caused the patient’s death.
An autopsy put the likely cause of death as heart disease.
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