In 2012, a man volunteered to save his sister’s life by donating one of his kidneys to her. According to CNN, the sister was suffering from end-stage renal disease and the brother and sister were a perfect donor match. During the surgery, the brother’s kidney was placed in what is called a "slush machine" in a room separate from the sister that would eventually be receiving the kidney during surgery.

However, while the kidney was waiting to be moved to the surgery-site, a nurse that was coming back from her lunch break thought that the kidney was already in the operating room. She then proceeded to throw the contents of the machine away, including the kidney. Although the kidney was later found, it could not be used because it was thrown away with unsafe medical waste. Although the sister was not able to use her brother’s kidney, she was able to have the transplant she needed two months after the incident.

Denying their negligence

Even though the hospital in Ohio where this incident occurred admits that the nurse did throw their patient’s kidney away, they recently asked the state court to dismiss the case that the family filed because they do not believe that the actions of the nurse were medically negligent, says ABC News.

In addition to this request, the hospital is also challenging the claims made by the family to recover expenses for pain and suffering. In response to the hospital’s request, the lawyer for the family who filed the case stated that the hospital must think that it is standard for hospitals to throw their patients’ kidneys away.

The commonality of medical malpractice

While throwing out a patient’s kidney may seem like an uncommon event, surgical errors like this one are extremely common. According to a study performed by Johns Hopkins University, “never events,” or events that should never happen during surgery:

  • Happen at least 4,000 times per year in the U.S.
  • 80,000 of these "never events" occurred between 1990 and 2010.
  • Surgeons leave items in their patients’ bodies, like sponges and medical tools, at least 39 times per week.
  • Surgeons operate on the wrong body part of their patient around 20 times every week.

These common mistakes made by surgeons and medical professionals are not without consequence. According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, these errors cost Americans their lives. Medical negligence is the third leading cause of death in the U.S., trailing just behind cancer and heart disease.

Because the consequences of medical malpractice are severe, it is essential that you speak with an attorney following a medical error to find out how you can protect your rights to compensation for lost wages, pain and suffering and medical expenses.