In March of 2017, Glenford Turner went to the Veterans Affairs hospital in West Haven, Connecticut about a dizzy spell he was having. During his examination he was suddenly struck with a bout of pain in his abdomen. The exam was halted, and doctors ordered an X-ray to find out what was wrong.

In a surprising twist, Turner’s X-ray showed a scalpel in his body. Turner had undergone prostate surgery in 2013, and apparently the piece of equipment was left inside during the procedure. A month later, the scalpel was removed, much to Turner’s relief.

Now, he is suing the Department of Veterans affairs for damages resulting from the operation. The amount he is seeking is not currently known. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a democrat, stated that he was appalled by the “deeply troubling report…America owes our veterans the world’s best medical care.” The VA declined to comment on the matter since it is before the courts.

There seems to be a growing outcry about the conditions at many VA hospitals. Sanitary conditions have been questioned, as have issues with staffing and patient care. This incident is just one of several higher profile situations that are highlighting the problems. Recently, VA secretary Eric K. Shinseki was forced to resign after a watchdog found that VA employees were actively working to hide how long wait times had become at VA hospitals.

The term in the medical field for items left in patients’ bodies is “retained surgical bodies.” Estimates vary between 1,500 and 6,000 retained surgical bodies being left after surgery each year in the United States. Usually those items are sponges and wipes, so the scalpel seems to be a special case. Sponges and wipes can cause deadly infections and may be even more dangerous than sharp metal objects.

After his procedure in 2013, Stanford complained of prolonged abdominal pain for several months, but his doctors never followed up, according to the lawsuit. They are seeking damages for the pain and suffering, and the suffering of his family, as well.

Turner’s lawyers said in a statement that it was “shocking” that a veteran would be treated this way, and that the hospital showed an “incomprehensible level of incompetence.”


VA Appeals Reform: Smooth sailing to easier benefits, or a minefield for veterans?” Veterans Law Blog,  Web. 17 Oct. 2017.