Medical Mistake: Surgeon Operates on the Wrong Eye of a 4-Year-Old Boy

Family claims surgeon operated on the wrong eye of 4-year-old Jesse Matlock.

ByABC News
April 19, 2011, 12:59 PM

April 19, 2011— -- Jesse Matlock went to a doctor today to find out if he suffered any permanent damage when a surgeon performed corrective surgery on the wrong eye and then, without consulting the boy's parents, quickly operated on the correct eye.

"Right now we're in the dark about what this will be like in the future," Tasha Gaul, mother of 4-year-old Jesse, told ABC news. The doctor they saw today told her they will have to wait 5 weeks for his eyes to completely heal before they can determine if there has been any permanent damage.

"No parent, no child, nobody should have to live through the torture of that day," Gaul said.

Jesse, of Vancouver, Wash., had been seeing Dr. Shawn Goodman in Lake Oswego, Ore., every six months since his parents had discovered he had a wandering right eye. Last Wednesday, a few days before his fourth birthday, he went into the operating room at Legacy Emanuel Medical Center in Portland, Ore.

Gaul told ABC News that the doctor described the surgery as meant to weaken the muscle at the bottom Jesse's right eye, since the strength of that muscle was causing his eye to wander. It wasn't until she completed the procedure that she realized she had operated on the left eye.

Post-Op Shock

"At 11a.m., the surgery should have been done and we should have been in the recovery room with our son at that point," Gaul said. Instead, a nurse who was at the operating table came out and simply said, "We're operating on both eyes," Gaul said. Before Jesse's parents could respond, the nurse had vanished.

After the procedure on the right eye was finished, Goodman came out to address the family. Gaul said the doctor laid it out in medical terms. "I didn't understand at first," said Gaul. "I asked, 'Can you repeat that, because I'm not sure I heard correctly.'"

Goodman then told the family that she had lost her sense of direction during the procedure because a nurse had mistakenly covered the mark Goodman had made on the eye that needed correction while prepping the boy for surgery.