Doctors Accidentally Amputate Wrong Leg on Elderly Patient in 'Tragic' Mistake

An Austrian man was recently required to undergo surgery to have his leg amputated—but according to an announcement made by the clinic on May 20, those involved in his care made a serious error and removed the wrong limb.

As Reuters reported, the 82-year-old patient "suffers many illnesses," some of which have affected his legs. As a result, doctors decided that his left leg needed amputation. However, it appears that, prior to surgery, a mark was made on the incorrect leg, instead indicating to doctors that his right leg should be amputated. The incident occurred at Freistadt Clinic in Freistadt, Austria, a small town near the border with the Czech Republic.

According to Reuters, the clinic called the botched operation a "tragic mistake" and released the following statement soon after:

"We are deeply shocked that on Tuesday, May 18, despite quality assurance standards, the wrong leg of an 82-year old man…was amputated," said the clinic. "Unfortunately the mistake, in which the right leg was removed instead of the left, occurred as a result of a sequence of unfortunate circumstances."

It was only when the patient's bandages were being changed on Thursday—two days after the operation—that the clinic realized that the incorrect leg had been amputated. According to The Guardian, the elderly patient, due to the nature of his illness, also did not immediately notice the mistake. The news outlet added that the patient was asked for verbal confirmation before his surgery, but his "articulation was limited."

At a news conference, the clinic's medical director, Norbert Fritsch, said, "We have to find out how this failure, this mistake, could happen. I would like to apologize publicly here." Additionally, the clinic is said to be reviewing its standards.

The patient has reportedly been offered some sort of psychological support in the aftermath of the ordeal. However, he will still have to undergo another operation to have his left leg amputated, as was originally planned. According to the clinic, "the operation is planned shortly."

Newsweek attempted to contact the Freistadt Clinic for further comment but did not hear back in time for publication.

This patient is not the first to experience such a mishap. In 2018, doctors in Russia were put under investigation after allegedly removing the wrong leg of an 89-year-old Holocaust survivor. According to her son, only Maria Dronova's right leg, suffering from gangrene, was supposed to be amputated. When they removed her left leg by mistake, her son says doctors attempted to cover up the error by claiming that both legs needed amputation.

Surgery in France, 2017
A surgery underway in France, 2017. When the patient's bandages were being changed on Thursday—two days after the operation—the Freistadt Clinic realized that the incorrect leg of an 82-year-old patient in Austria had been amputated. ANNE-CHRISTINE POUJOULAT/AFP via Getty Images