VA Apologizes for Surgery in Connecticut That Allegedly Left Scalpel Inside Veteran for Years

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

The Veterans Affairs Department apologized on Wednesday for an incident where a scalpel was allegedly left inside the body of a veteran for years following surgery.

A sign for the Department of Veterans Affairs is seen at an agency event on Nov. 3, 2011 in Denver, Colorado. (Credit: John Moore/Getty Images)

A sign for the Department of Veterans Affairs is seen at an agency event on Nov. 3, 2011 in Denver, Colorado. (Credit: John Moore/Getty Images)

VA Secretary David Shulkin said that the department is working to address the claim and prevent future mistakes.

“It’s an event that should never happen, and I am deeply sorry that any veteran should have to undergo this,” Shulkin said, adding that the incident was “inadvertent on the surgeon’s part.”

Shulkin also said that surgical materials are left inside patients far less frequently in the VA’s hospitals than in non-VA institutions.

“While this is an extremely rare event — it happens in the country 1,500 times a year, in the VA, it does happen, it happened 12 times in the VA — that’s a rate in the VA much less than what happens outside the VA,” he said, adding, “That’s no excuse, this should never happen.”

Shulkin was responding to questions from Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a Connecticut Democrat, about the lawsuit at a Senate Veteran’s Affairs Committee hearing, calling the allegation a “truly egregious act of malpractice.”

In a lawsuit filed earlier this month in Connecticut district court, Glenford Taylor alleged that a scalpel used during a 2013 surgery at a VA hospital in Connecticut was left in his body accidentally. The scalpel was discovered in March 2017, according to the lawsuit, when Taylor complained of dizziness and went for an MRI.

That MRI had to be stopped while in progress, the lawsuit states, because Taylor suffered “severe abdominal pain.”

“Imaging performed that date revealed an abandoned surgical instrument in plaintiff’s body,” the lawsuit states. It was removed in a separate surgery in April 2017.

Turner’s lawsuit accuses the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs of negligence and seeks compensatory damages.

Notice: you are using an outdated browser. Microsoft does not recommend using IE as your default browser. Some features on this website, like video and images, might not work properly. For the best experience, please upgrade your browser.