Altman, Lawrence K. "State Issues Scathing Report on Error aat Sloan-Kettering," New York
Times, 16 November 1995, pp. 1, B4.
Here is a follow-up of an earlier report on a major gaffe at Sloan-Kettering: a patient was to have
surgery on the left side of her brain, for a tumor. The surgeon operated on the healthy right side
instead. The situation was confused: the surgeon was confused about which patient he was
The patient's family removed her from Sloan-Kettering, placed her in New York
Hospital-Cornell where the brain surgery was conducted correctly. The patient, Rajeswari
Ayyappan, is the mother of an Indian movie star. Her son reports that since her surgeries, she has
been unable to read and been listless.
As a result of an investigation of this scandal, Sloan- Kettering has been fined a total of $16,000,
the maximum allowed, for violation of eight regulations. Sloan-Kettering is to report on its plan
to modify patient care.
The physician in this case is Ehud Arbit, who was chief of neurosurgery at the time of the
mishap. He has been removed as chief and the hospital is seeking to dismiss him but he is
Sloan-Kettering has admitted in a statement that "‘our standard of care was not met in this case'"
and that it "‘accepts full responsibility for insuring that such a breach in our standard of care will
not occur again.'" (p. 1)
"‘What disturbs me most is that at no time prior to entering the operating room did the surgeon or
other members of the surgical team review the patrient's medical history, diagnostic reports, or
CAT scan films - things the we in the medical community occur on a regular basis," (said
Barbara A. DeBuono, Commissioner of Health of New York). "‘There were multiple systemic
failures within this institution involving a lot of people. It was not exclusively an error or mistake
by one person like the surgeon, although there certainly were actions that he took that did not
meet what I would consider acceptable standards of care." (p. B4)
Details of the confusion in the treatment of this patient are presented and, indeed, it is a mess.
In an accompanying article [New York Times, "Son of Cancer Patient Says Family Sought the
Best Care," New York Times, 16 November 1995), p. B4.], the patient's family is quoted as
saying that they brought their mother to New York, "We thought it was the best hospital, and we
thought they would take good care of our mother..." (p. B4)
The family has retained lawyers in New York.