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Man undergoing minor operation given vasectomy by mistake

May 12 2014

A hospital has apologised after a man undergoing a minor operation was given a vasectomy by mistake.

Doctors at Royal Liverpool Hospital have tried to reverse the blunder but the victim, who has not been named, now faces an anxious wait to see if he will be able to have children.

The incident, as reported by the Liverpool Echo, has been described by health chiefs as a “never event” – a medical mistake that should never happen – and a case of “wrong site surgery”.

The hospital has “apologised unreservedly” to the patient, whose age has not been revealed, and said the surgeon has been suspended from carrying out operations during an internal investigation.

Dr Peter Williams, medical director, said: “We can confirm a patient who was scheduled to have a different minor urological procedure was wrongly given a vasectomy.

“We have apologised unreservedly to the patient and we are offering him our full support. We greatly regret the distress this has caused him.

“It is our duty, in the best interests of the patient to uphold their confidentiality; therefore we cannot provide any further detail without their agreement.

“This is a serious incident and we are investigating this fully to understand why it occurred and how we can ensure it does not happen again.”

A vasectomy is a surgical procedure in which the tubes that carry sperm from a man’s testicles are cut, blocked or sealed.

In most cases, it is more than 99 per cent effective. It is possible to have a vasectomy reversed but the success rate is only around 55 per cent, according to NHS England.

Even if a surgeon manages to join up the tubes again, pregnancy may still not be possible.

Paul Summers, regional organiser for worker’s union Unison, told the Liverpool Echo that the incident could be linked to the impact of staff cutbacks.

“The quality of care at the Royal is usually of a high standard and incidents such as this are rare,” he said.

“But I fear that cuts to staffing levels places greater pressure on existing staff and systems of work and can lead to incidents like this.”

The error could cost The Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen University Hospitals NHS Trust thousands of pounds in compensation.