Cirque D’Erreurs

Many years ago, and old timey surgeon told me a hilarious story.  After his intern year, he did a tour in the Navy, where the duty was often easy and the docs could do practically anything they wanted.  So lounging around the clinic one day, he go an interesting request:  a strapping, tall 19 year old marine decided that he wanted a circumcision.  No problem, procedure accomplished, and in those days anyone could be kept in the hospital overnight for anything, so the marine was admitted for observation.  That evening, the nurse was unable to observe said patient, who had eloped.  He showed up at sick call to see the same surgeon the next morning, in much distress.  The physical exam revealed a well-endowed male whose surgical sight was badly infected, erythematous, draining purulence, and quite painful.  Seems the young man was so happy with his new look, that he had headed out that night to that one part of Norfolk where the more entrepreneurial ladies were known to habit, and well…”A” for enthusiasm.  The infection was drained, and re-sutured with stainless steel sutures to dissuade any similar transactions until full healing was accomplished.  

A few thousand miles away and over a half-century later, things took a different turn.  “Old Age Pensioner” Terry Brazier, 70, checked into a Leicester, England hospital for a cystoscopy and Botox bladder injection.  Instead, he got a circumcision.  “He says he was so distracted chatting to staff he did not realize he was getting a different procedure until it was too late… It was a real surprise.”  I’ll bet. 

The hospital spokesman stated, “We take events like this very seriously and carried out a thorough investigation at the time to ensure that we learned from this incident and do all we can to avoid it happening again.  While money can never undo what happened, we hope this payment provides some compensation.”

Having a particular external familiarity for seven decades so suddenly, permanently undone was certainly worth a pound, well, at least an ounce and a half of flesh, and Brazier richly deserved the £20k – about $24,000 –compensation he received.  But there are no details given on the chain of idiots that maimed this poor guy.  And from receptionist to nurse to scrub tech to clown-surgeon, I’m presuming that it was an unbroken chain of idiots until otherwise clarified.  How in the hell does someone not say, “Sir, I notice you’ve had this foreskin for 70 years – are you absolutely sure you want to part with it?”  I had to wonder it this might have been the work of a newly-minted nurse practitioner “surgeon”, but again, no details forthcoming.  Nor could I find out whether or not the British NHS has a “No Tips” policy, so I’d be grateful for any updates. 

Pat Conrad MD

Pat Conrad is a full-time rural ER doc on the Florida Gulf Coast. After serving as a carrier naval flight officer, he graduated from the University of Florida College of Medicine, and the Tallahassee Family Medicine residency program. His commentary has appeared in Medical Economics and at . Conrad’s work stresses individual freedom and autonomy as the crucial foundation for medical excellence, is wary of all collective solutions, and recognizes that the vast majority of poisonous snakebites are concurrent with alcohol consumption. 

  4 comments for “Cirque D’Erreurs

  1. Aaron M. Levine
    August 14, 2019 at 5:26 pm

    One of my first cases as a resident involved knee surgery in a teen age girl. Those were the days we admitted the nite before surgery. I did her H&P and she complained of right knee pain. When I went to scrub the next day, the left knee was prepped and the left knee was listed on the OR schedule. (Days before arthroscopy). I stopped the operation. Time out did not exist then. The surgeon and the OR team were angry with me. When someone spoke with the family, they learned I was right and avoided a malpractice case. I then started a pattern of having the patient write on the good side things like Do not open until Xmas. Open other side first, etc. It went well until the Chief called me in and suspended me for unprofessional conduct. (I think the JCAHO now follows the protocol I did as a resident. Further, the surgeon’s rival surgeon learned about it and smeared his name. The surgeon thought I was playing one upsmanship and never allowed me to perform a procedure with him again. Others thought I was a spy and did not want me to assist and learn as well.

    I learned that we need to actually examine people and not just rely on a schedule, my do not open message, and making sure we were doing it right. Again, the JCAHO now does it, and I am no longer a surgeon.

  2. Randy
    August 8, 2019 at 1:38 pm

    I heard he told the surgeon “it’s OK, you can keep the tip”

  3. Barb
    August 8, 2019 at 1:22 pm

    Why I don’t talk to them. They are easily distracted and mistakes, negligence happens.

  4. Rick
    August 8, 2019 at 1:01 pm

    Priceless, Pat. Priceless.
    More priceless: the Nurse Practitioner Surgeon!
    Made my day.

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