Patient sues VA after discovering scalpel inside his body 4 years after surgery

Retired U.S. Army veteran Glenford Turner filed a lawsuit in federal court last week against the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, alleging officials at West Haven, Conn.-based VA Connecticut Healthcare System failed to remove "an abandoned surgical instrument" from his body, The Washington Post reports.

The lawsuit, which was filed with the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut last week, accuses the VA department of negligence and seeks unspecified compensatory damages for an allegedly mismanaged surgery Mr. Turner, 61, received at the VA Connecticut Healthcare System four years ago, the report states.

Mr. Turner said he received robotic-assisted prostate cancer treatment at the hospital in August 2013. A lawyer on behalf of Mr. Turner said his client experienced long-term abdominal pain following the operation.

According to the lawsuit, Mr. Turner suffered a dizzy spell in March 2017 and went to the VA Connecticut Healthcare system for treatment. While undergoing an MRI, Mr. Turner suffered a wave of severe abdominal pain, which forced hospital officials to stop the MRI and conduct an X-ray of his midsection. The X-ray reportedly showed a scalpel in Mr. Turner's body — the same instrument Mr. Turner alleges hospital officials used during his prostate surgery at the same hospital four years ago, according to the report.

Hospital officials reportedly did not remove the scalpel until almost one month after discovering it inside Mr. Turner's body, the report states. Following another operation to remove the instrument, VA Connecticut Healthcare officials allegedly admitted fault for the incident, according to the lawsuit.

Mr. Turner filed an administrative complaint with the VA in June 2017 regarding the alleged error. However, the lawsuit states VA officials did not respond to the claim other than to confirm they had received it.

A spokesperson for the VA Connecticut Healthcare System told Becker's Hospital Review Tuesday, "The VA does not comment on pending litigation."

According to a February 2017 report by the National Institutes of Health, "the number of cases in which foreign bodies are left behind during a procedure in the United States has been estimated at around 1500 cases per year" out of an estimated 28 million operations performed nationwide. Retained surgical bodies may be left behind "due to a lack of organization and communication between surgical staff during the process," the report states.

To read The Washington Post's full report, click here.

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