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Surgeon removes woman’s kidney after mistaking it for tumour

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A woman undergoing surgery for back pain left hospital missing a kidney after it was mistaken for a tumour.

Maureen Pacheco settled a lawsuit over the error by Dr Ramon Vazquez, who was tasked with cutting her open at the beginning of an operation to fuse together parts of the 51-year-old’s spine at a Florida hospital.

The surgeon made the decision to remove what he thought was a cancerous tumour after discovering the pelvic kidney, a functioning organ not located where kidneys are normally set in the abdomen.

Ms Pacheco had no say over whether it was taken out of her body in April 2016.

“He just took my life and dismissed it,” she said.

“If he would have looked at the MRIs that were given to him, he would have realised.”

Ms Pacheco said she was now fearful over future complications from the removal, saying a kidney transplant or dialysis is always in the back of her mind.

Errors such as wrongfully removing an organ are categorised as “wrong site, wrong procedure, wrong patient errors”, categorised by US health authorities and the NHS as “never events”.

While such events should, by definition, never happen, they are not infrequently recorded.

Between April and September this year, 96 incidences of wrong site surgery were recorded, including the biopsy of the wrong breast, an ovary being removed in error, and the removal of the wrong side of a patient’s colon.

To prevent incidents like these all hospitals implement procedures, such as clearly marking the body part to be operated on, that must be followed to prevent human error having catastrophic effects.

Dr Vazquez says the Wellington regional medical centre did not inform him that Ms Pacheco had a pelvic kidney. He had an unblemished record before the incident.

The case has been settled on his behalf for a “nominal amount”, according to his lawyer Mark Mittelmark, who stressed the doctor did not admit liability in admitting to a settlement.

Florida’s department of health has now filed an administrative complaint against Dr Vazquez, a process that could result in penalties ranging from losing his medical license to being fined.

It is understood he does not have medical malpractice insurance, so any payments will be made from his own pocket.

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Scientists redefine kilogram as original measure loses mass

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A quiet revolution could this week change the standard for weighing everything from drug doses to jumbo jet fuel.

Scientists from more than 60 countries will vote on Friday on whether a lump of metal held in a Parisian vault should continue to be the definition of a kilogram.

Le Grand K, a small cylinder of titanium alloy, has set the standard since 1889. All the scales in the world are ultimately calibrated against it, even those weighing in pounds and ounces.

It’s so important to the global economy that three key-holders are needed to unlock the vault. When the Nazis occupied Paris they left untouched the building that houses “Le Grand K”.

The problem, though, is that while the mother of all kilograms has only been taken out of its protective case four times in the last century, it has lost atoms and therefore mass.

It amounts to just 20 billionths of a gram, about the weight of an eyelash, but in a world that needs to weigh objects with ever greater accuracy, that’s a big deal.

Work on a definition of a kilogram is taking place at the National Physical Laboratory
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Work on the definition of a kilogram is taking place at the National Physical Laboratory

Britain has a copy of Le Grand K called Kilo 18, which it won in a lottery in 1889, and is stored at the National Physical Laboratory (NPL) in West London.

Stuart Davidson, a metrologist or weight scientist at NPL, is one of the trusted guardians.

“Once you get up to a few tens of tonnes – things like filling an aircraft with fuel – everything needs to be traceable back to a standard,” he told Sky News.

“The same is true when you get down to very small masses like a milligram – for example the active ingredients of pharmaceuticals.

“You like to know you are getting the right dose of drugs when you are given a prescription.”

Shoppers will not notice any difference as they buy groceries
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Shoppers will not notice any difference as they buy groceries

Scientists at the lab are now part of the global effort to devise a more accurate, immutable definition of a kilogram that is no longer dependent on a physical object.

They are using what is known as a Kibble Balance, named after the British physicist who first conceptualised, to express the mass of a kilogram in terms of the amount of upward electromagnetic force is needed to balance the downward drag of gravity.

Then with some heavy-duty maths, they relate that to a fundamental physical law of nature.

By taking the answer – a number called Planck’s Constant – they can reverse the process and calibrate scales with unprecedented accuracy.

Ian Robinson, a fellow at NPL, has been leading the work.

He says labs around the world will be able to have a kibble balance, liberating the definition of a kilogram from its physical and geographical ties.

“You are not reliant on any one object anymore,” he said.

“Effectively our mass scale is spread out and everyone can contribute. I see it as egalitarian – a form of democracy for mass.”

Other important standard units have already been updated.

The metre is no longer defined by a rod of metal, but by the distance light travels in a set, and very small, fraction of a second.

And a second is no longer defined by a fraction of the time it takes for the Earth to complete one rotation, which scientists now know varies, but by vibrations in a caesium atom.

Michael de Podesta, a principle research scientist at NPL, said the public will not notice any difference when grocery shopping.

“But it means people like me won’t worry about the kilogram losing weight,” he said.

“It will make it future-proof.

“Scientists will be able to measure things in ever more detail and engineers fabricate things with ever more precision.

“Improvements in measurement will lead to advances in science.”

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Trial of drug kingpin Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman starting in New York

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Brooklyn, New York, is bracing itself for a trial of mammoth proportions.

Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman is the notorious Mexican drug lord whose audacious escapes from prison grabbed headlines across the world.

El Chapo arriving in the US in 2017 after his extradition to Mexico
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‘El Chapo’ arriving in the US in 2017

He is accused of running the world’s biggest drug cartel and spending decades smuggling more than 150 tonnes of cocaine into the United States.

Prosecutors have spent years building the case against Guzman, who was extradited in 2017 after escaping Mexican jails twice – once in a laundry cart, and later down a mile-long tunnel that reached his prison shower.

The shower where El Chapo escaped through a tunnel in 2015.
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The shower where ‘El Chapo’ escaped through a tunnel in 2015

In the confines of a New York federal courtroom, he now faces charges relating to drug trafficking, money laundering and firearms.

Millions of dollars are being spent on every possible measure to prevent him slipping away again – and to protect the 12 people tasked with deciding his fate.

This is no regular jury arrangement – all members will be anonymous with armed guards accompanying them to and from court each day.

Guzman’s trial could last up to four months.

Guzman's trial will take place amid high security
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Guzman’s trial will take place amid high security

Those men and women will decide whether the man whose nickname means “shorty” is guilty or not of 11 trafficking, firearms and money laundering charges.

The indictment says the Sinaloa cartel, which Guzman is accused of leading from 1989 to 2014, became “the largest drug trafficking organisation in the world… with thousands of members”.

Prosecutors argue that in that time, the cartel smuggled around 154,000 kilograms of cocaine into the US, as well as heroin and methamphetamine – earning them 14 billion dollars.

The examination of the legendary kingpin’s life will tell an epic tale.

The judgement could see him behind bars for the rest of his life.

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California wildfire deaths rise to 44 as more bodies are found in cars and homes

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A total of 44 people have been killed in California’s devastating wildfire as authorities continue to find bodies in burnt-out cars and homes.

Butte County sheriff said it had become the deadliest wildfire in US history.

More follows…

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