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11 Jun, 2009 05:02

Patient blinded after surgery on the wrong eye

An elderly patient has taken legal action against a Moscow clinic after going in for eye surgery, only for the doctor to operate on the wrong eye, but has received little compensation or comfort.

Nina Putilova has long been suffering from eye troubles, but when she decided to go under the surgeon’s knife, the 83-year-old didn’t expect to leave the clinic half-blind and unable to walk.

Nina’s medical records show she was due for an operation on her left eye, but the doctor operated on her right. To make things worse, Nina later tripped up in the ward and broke her hip. She says the clinic failed to call an ambulance or provide help. She never fully recovered and now needs a wheelchair.

“Neither the nurse who prepared my mother for the operation nor the doctor checked her medical history. Later, in our local clinic, pages were torn out of her medical records to cover up their colleagues’ blunders,” Nina’s daughter Ksenia Ilyuchenko gives her account of the story.

The eye clinic insists it did nothing wrong.

“There’s a strict system of checks before the operation. She had problems with both her eyes so the surgeon simply started with the right one and wanted to operate on her left the day after,” said Dmitry Zhernov, spokesman for the eye microsurgery complex.

The doctor who performed the operation continues to work at the center.

Nina and her daughter took the medical center to court, demanding $16,000 in compensation. The clinic was ordered to pay just $2,000.

Russia has no insurance system against medical malpractice, and critics say punishing those responsible is a struggle.

“Under our law, the judge decides on the compensation according to the defendant’s ability to pay. And our state medical institutions don’t have money for such payments in their budget,” explained Dmitry Aivazyan from the League for Protection of Patients’ Rights.

There are no official figures for the scale of medical negligence in the country, but the group says 50,000 Russians die every year because of carelessness.

Nina’s family is preparing for a new court battle. They say they need money for her care and medicine. Nina’s left eye remains nearly blind, but she’s now unlikely to be fit enough for another operation, or to overcome her mistrust of doctors.