Man Catches Fire During Surgery

Mon Apr 18, 2005 09:09 AM ET

FiremanSEATTLE (Reuters) – Seattle police launched an investigation on Friday to determine how a patient undergoing emergency heart surgery caught on fire at a local hospital in 2003. The male patient, who was not identified, went up in flames after alcohol poured on his skin was ignited by a surgical instrument.

The patient died after the surgery but that was due to heart failure and not the fire, said Dr. Robert Caplan, medical quality director of Virginia Mason.

Caplan said fires are known to occur in operating rooms although they were extremely rare.

The two-year-old incident became publicly known after an anonymous letter sent to the media mentioned it as a sign of unsafe health care at the hospital, and said the patient burned to death.

Caplan strongly disputed its contents. “That letter is factually incorrect,” he said.

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