Kerala doctor suspended after operating on child’s tongue instead of finger

The 4 year old was scheduled for surgery to remove a sixth finger on her hand at the Kozhilode medical college hospital.

BySouth First Desk

Published May 17, 2024 | 6:46 AMUpdatedMay 17, 2024 | 9:59 AM

Kerala docor perform wrong surgery on a child

A doctor was suspended in Keral’s Kozhikode on Thursday, 16 May after the wrong surgery was performed on a four-year-old girl at the Government Medical College Hospital in the district.

The child had been scheduled for surgery to remove a sixth finger on her hand at the Maternal and Child Care Centre of the Medical College Hospital, instead of which an operation was performed on her tongue mistakenly.

The girl’s family alleged that the error came to light when they discovered cotton stuffed in the child’s mouth post-surgery, prompting them to investigate further. Upon closer inspection, they found that the surgery had been performed on her tongue, not on her hand as intended.

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Swift investigation

As the issue created an uproar in Kerala, the state government initiated action, suspending Associate Professor Dr Bejohn Johnson, pending an inquiry.

Health Minister Veena George announced the decision to suspend the doctor after receiving a report from the Director of Medical Education, who was asked to conduct an immediate investigation into the incident earlier in the day.

An official statement said the minister has also directed that a detailed inquiry be conducted and further action taken. She has given strict directives to the hospitals to ensure that protocols are followed correctly, it said.

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The child’s family

Meanwhile, the family has complained to the police, seeking action against those responsible for the grave error.

No one should have such an experience again at the Medical College Hospital,” the child’s family said. They said that the child had no issue with her tongue.

The family also said the hospital authorities should take responsibility if any adverse consequences arise for the child due to this procedure.

“The hospital authorities informed us that it was a mistake as they had scheduled surgery for two children on the same date,” a family member said.

A family member said the doctor had apologised to the family for the error.

Expressing shock over the incident, Leader of the Opposition in the Kerala Assembly VD Satheesan said it was “serious medical malpractice” and sought strict disciplinary action against those responsible for it.

“Presently, the government’s actions seem to undo the progress Kerala has achieved in the health sector over the years,” he said in a statement.

Satheesan alleged that the credibility of government hospitals is being questioned due to repeated medical errors.

“Apart from just asking for a report right away, what steps has the health department and the minister taken to address each incident? This isn’t the first problem at Kozhikode Medical College,” he pointed out, recalling the case of Harshina, who protested after a device got stuck in her stomach during surgery.

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KGMCTA condemns suspension

Meanwhile, the Kozhikode unit of the Kerala Government Medical College Teachers’ Association (KGMCTA) said that the reports of wrong-site surgery performed on a child are nothing but baseless.

It also added that the disciplinary action against the associate professor was unfortunate.

“The child was suffering from ankyloglossia or tongue-tie (the tongue attaches to the floor of the mouth with a web of tissue called the lingual frenulum). If not treated on time it might create difficulties for the child in the future. The procedure that requires to release the frenulum so the tongue can move more freely takes less time and thus it was performed first,” said Dr Krishnan C, unit president, in a statement on Thursday.

According to him, the parents were informed of this procedure. After that the procedure for polydactyly (condition of having more fingers) was performed, he said.

“It is unfortunate that the medical professional got suspended in haste. The concerned didn’t conduct a proper inquiry,” added Krishnan.

(With PTI inputs)