California Hospital Takes Botched Operations Seriously

WHO: St. Joseph Hospital in Orange County.
WHAT: The California Department of Public Health is investigating St. Joseph for conducting three ‘wrong site’ operations since January 2006. Botched surgeries include operating on a patient’s good knee and making an incision on the wrong side of a patient’s head.
WHERE: Orange hospital under investigation for operating room error [L.A. Times]
THE QUOTE: “Members of the clinical team involved in these cases have been deeply affected, and as a hospital we take this very seriously and regret that it happened,” [Dr. Raymond Casciari, St. Joseph’s chief medical officer] said.

“Taking it seriously” is a phrase companies use over and over again in public statements whenever they have bad PR. Our series of posts on occurrences of the phrase is our attempt to question how seriously companies are really taking these matters if every time they trot out this phrase by rote.

(Photo: Getty)


Edit Your Comment

  1. BugMeNot2 says:

    I don’t trust doctors who can’t tell left from right. Sorry.

  2. hejustlaughs says:

    Wow, those patients just won the malpractice lottery.

  3. mrjimbo19 says:

    what would the consumerist prefer in this phrases place? Just because something is used does not mean there is no meaning behind it’s words. Not saying in this case they “care” more than others but what would make you the editor think this was something they were truly concerned about?

  4. badgeman46 says:

    @mrjimbo19: It’s a very generic and impersonal response, and in most cases redundant, because it is expected that company X would take it seriously in the first place. Meanwhile the company is merely patting themselves on the back PR wise. “Taking it seriously” is just a passive appeasement phrase. There is no action behind it, they are just telling you what you want to hear. Phrases that should be used should address the issue at hand in specific terms and use active phrases such as, “Corrective action will be taken regarding the malfunctioning widgets” or “CS rep #99 acted contrary to company policy, therefore we offer this solution”

  5. Tank says:

    Well, as long as they’re taking it seriously, maybe we can let it slide this one time…

  6. sncreducer says:

    I would think this whole “taking it seriously” snark would have a lot more weight if The Consumerist would actually follow up on companies that say they’re “taking it seriously” to see what they’ve done in response to the reported problem. Short of that, The Consumerist is the equivalent of a smartass heckler – you know that what’s being said might be wrong, but you’re too lazy to get off your ass and do something about it.

  7. mrjimbo19 says:

    @badgeman46: I agree with you to an extent. These companies have to put up some type of statement but in most cases they legally can’t discuss beyond that until litigation has occurred. Also perhaps I am the exception to most people but I don’t really want to hear about “X” employee being thrown under the bus or “Y” manager being fired, fix the problem and be done with it.

    I also do not see PR departments patting themselves on the back for trying to play damage control for issues this serious and or life threatening. I see them doing the only thing they can, namely stating there is a problem and they have to look into it but they are concerned and taking it serious. Perhaps to you it is assumed they would take it serious to someone else they may need the “reassurance”.

  8. breny says:

    There’s a reason I used a Sharpie wrote “NO!!” on my right heel and “YES” on my left heel when I had achilles tendon surgery. Same thing with gall bladder surgery for both hubby and I. Wrote “GALL BLADDER” on our abdomens. I also made sure they asked me what I was there for when I reached the surgery suite.

    I don’t blame these victims. I started the Sharpie thing about 10 years ago after I started hearing about all these “wrong site surgeries.” It’s not foolproof but it’s one more way to advocate for yourself and your loved ones.

  9. forgottenpassword says:



    And smart!

  10. WraithSama says:


    I agree. It is a passive phrase that really means nothing. It’s what they call a non-answer. It’s designed to reduce the pressure of bad PR without being forced to commit to anything or admit any wrongdoing.

  11. ChuckECheese says:

    @BugMeNot2: Cut the surgeon some slack–he thought the nurse said ‘stage left.’

  12. littlemoose says:

    If anybody will actually take something seriously, it’s hospitals. In addition to the potential for liability (huge and relatively easy to prove with wrong-site surgery, unlike many other kinds of medical malpractice), the hospital has JCAHO (the accreditation entity), Medicare/Medicaid, its board of directors, and the state Department of Public Health to answer to. I know that this phrase is usually just pap, but I think the hospital is a lot more likely to actually follow through.

  13. alice_bunnie says:

    I have to agree with you. So, yes it’s a stock phrase, maybe over used, but really what else are they supposed to say. They are truly tied legally what they can say, and that’s not a cop out.

  14. SarcasticDwarf says:

    @breny: The one time I had surgery on my ankle in 2005 the nurses used some kind of marker on my ankle before the surgery, verified it, and the doctor verified it with me before I was put under. Seems reasonable, damn near foolproof, and costs essentially nothing.

  15. solidstate42 says:

    I was born at St. Joe’s. At least they did one thing right.

  16. bohemian says:

    I was with someone having a same day surgery. The nurse double checked the chart and went to write ON THE WRONG WRIST. We both showed her the obvious visible problem on the correct wrist and asked her to confirm with the older exam notes. The check in person wrote the wrong wrist down. Once they had it straightened out they marked it with a pen.

  17. tylerk4 says:

    I’ve had occasion to visit the “normal doctor offices” next door to this facility, which is also part of the same health group. It’s likely they make you sign a mandatory binding arbitration agreement like they do at the office facility.

  18. SuperJdynamite says:

    @breny: “I don’t blame these victims. I started the Sharpie thing about 10 years ago after I started hearing about all these “wrong site surgeries.””

    I’ve heard that some hospitals do this on the patient’s behalf. Maybe this should be standard.

  19. JiminyChristmas says:

    Sort of puts “my XBOX won’t work” in perspective doesn’t it?

    I can’t even imagine how I would feel if I were the victim of one of these mistakes. Not only do you have to live with the aftermath of an entirely useless surgical procedure, you get to continue suffering with whatever brought you to the hospital in the first place…until you get to do the whole thing over again.

    Also, could you imagine the insurance nightmare this sort of thing could conceivably create?

  20. felixgolden says:

    I’ve done the sharpie thing too when I was having knee surgery. The hospital was a teaching hospital, and all the interns coming in kept looking at the chart and going for the wrong knee.

    Thought I’d better play it safe.

  21. I had a shoulder scope in ’95. From the moment I went in the hospital until I was wheeled into the OR, I had THIRTEEN PEOPLE confirm which shoulder it was. After the first 3, I decided to count just to see how many people who came into contact with me would ask. It was every one of them. After 5, I figured it was overkill, but I still felt calmer when I got wheeled in.

  22. ? Final ? says:

    The biggest waste of my time at work is Docs, PAs and Nurses ordering the wrong damn side.

    The funniest thing is when i started this job the videos we had to do along with the diverity, sexual harrassment and drugs/weapons videos was a tape about “It’s OK to Speak UP!” Nurses and Surg techs are so damn scared of the doctors and surgeons they wouldn’t say anything even if they though the doc was working on the wrong damn side….

    If you’re going under, a Sharpie and big letters that say, “WRONG SIDE” are your best friends.

  23. mamacat49 says:

    It’s a JACHO rule that all invasive procedure sites are marked. If the hospital isn’t doing it, then they’re in violation. We have to mark EVERYTHING at our hospital and ask everytime. There’s a step just before the surgeon cuts called “TIME OUT” and you have to state the patient’s name, the operation, the side if necessary, any allergies and whether antibiotics have been started. Everyone in the OR suite has to agree or everything comes to a screeching halt.

  24. Smorgasbord says:

    I sent this suggestion to the Surgeon General of the USA.

    Over the years I have heard of doctors operating on the wrong arm, leg, eye, etc. It is found out that sometimes a doctor comes from another hospital to do the operation. His or her hospital marks the leg coming off or to be operated on with an X. The one they do the operation in puts the X on the leg that stays.
    Come up with universal (and international) symbols for different procedures and teach them in the medical schools so no more mistakes like that are made. Both sides should be marked, one for the one to operate on, and one to leave that one alone.

    If any of you know of a medical school, please pass this along to them. This would end the mistakes since both sides would be marked.

  25. speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

    My primary care physician was also my surgeon when I had my infected kidney removed. I mean, yes, he was actually a surgeon, and a very good one, too. Even though he had been seeing me twice a week for two months prior to the surgery, and knew damn well what side to operate on, he still marked the correct side. It’s just best practices.

  26. BOO_BOO_HOFF says:

    “We take this very seriously” is the new “please listen carefully as our menu options have changed”

  27. JerseyJarhead says:

    This is all so much horsehit and there are more fucking apologists on this site than you can shake a stick at…seriously!

    This AIN’T rocket science (and NASA will fuck that up, too) – 6 years ago I had knee surgery at NW University Hospital in Chicago. Before I went under, two nurses and the operating room “control” physician came to me, asked me specifically which knee was getting the repair. They made me say clearly and out loud “the right knee is the one being operated on, not the left knee” then they took a big, black, permanent magic marker and wrote “NO” on my left knee. Then, above where the incision would go, they wrote “THIS ONE” on the right knee.

    Guess what? No problem. No mistake. No lawsuit. No spin, lying or other BS required.

    How fucking difficult is that?

    STOP APOLOGISING FOR ASSHOLES who do NOT take anything “seriously.”