Patient feels knife cut into chest

19:51, Feb 18 2014
Merv Archer
MERV ARCHER: Felt the cut while being operated on.

Wellington Hospital has apologised to a patient who complained that he could feel the knife cutting open his chest as he had a routine pacemaker operation.

"I've always wondered what it would be like to have your throat cut. Well, I can more-or-less imagine that now," Merv Archer, 79, said yesterday.

He had had the procedure twice before and said he usually did not feel a thing.

"This time I got as far as the operating room and was all set to go and they made the first incision, which I could feel.

"They said 'Is it blunt?' and I said 'No, it's bloody sharp, I can feel you cutting my chest.'

"They made a deep incision and at that stage I went right off. I can tell you, it makes your voice go up a notch."


He said he was in pain, but the surgeon continued to "poke and prod around".

"I'm 79-years-old, I'm in pretty reasonable nick, more than most people of my age. I shudder to think what would happen to a poor old dear in her late 80s or a child, it's outrageous."

Mr Archer, of Masterton, wrote to the hospital to complain and was told an inquiry would be held, but had since received no explanation.

"I have to say I'm getting the sense that they're telling me to get stuffed. I think I'd even be happy with, 'Oh, we've cocked up'."

After inquiries from The Dominion Post yesterday, Wellington Hospital chief medical officer Geoffrey Robinson apologised for the pain Mr Archer had experienced "and the impact this has had on him subsequently".

The "usual amount" of local anaesthetic had been given, but patient comfort was of the utmost importance and in this case that had not been achieved, Dr Robinson said.

"When the patient alerted staff that there was a level of discomfort, the procedure was halted and more medication given.

"The cardiologist who performed the procedure is very experienced and has been implanting pacemakers for more than 22 years and was alarmed and saddened to learn of Mr Archer's experience."

Dr Robinson also apologised for the time taken to address Mr Archer's concerns.

Mr Archer said last night that he appreciated the apology, but had complained only because he wanted to make sure the same thing did not happen to another patient.

"If they don't follow it up, it will be just another nail in their coffin."

The Dominion Post