NEW YORK — CNN said July 9 that it is working to verify the identity of the Nepalese patient operated on this spring by its medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, following a published report that said the Indian American physician mistakenly told viewers that he had treated someone else, reports AP.
Gupta, a practicing brain surgeon, operated on a girl on April 27 at Kathmandu's Bir Hospital shortly after he had been sent to Nepal to cover the aftermath of a deadly earthquake there. In a video report that day, Gupta identified the patient as 8-year-old Salina Dahal and said she needed emergency surgery because of a fractured skull, blood clot and swelling of the brain.
The Global Press Journal reported this week that according to the girl's family and doctors, Dahal was never operated on. Instead, Gupta operated on a 14-year-old girl, Sandhya Chalise.
Gupta, speaking on CNN July 8, said the hospital's triage unit was a chaotic situation that was "unlike anything I've ever seen." He had relied upon the hospital to identify his patient, and CNN acknowledged that the hospital may have provided him with incorrect information.
Asked how Gupta might have mistaken the girl on a stretcher in his report for the person he operated upon, CNN spokeswoman Neel Khairzada noted that it was brain surgery, and the rest of the patient's body was obscured by drapes.
Confusing matters, a CNN text report from Nepal that was posted online before Gupta spoke on the air identified the patient as Chalise, which the Journal said was accurate. But after Gupta's report, CNN changed its text story to say the doctor operated on Dahal, said the AP report.
Apparently, different people at the hospital had given conflicting information to the two CNN representatives, Khairzada said.
According to a report in The Daily Beast, Gupta said, “I hate mistakes. I really hate them.”
CNN is now working to make sure it has the correct information about the patient and will correct the record if Gupta's report is proven wrong, she said. Both Dahal and Chalise are apparently doing well, Gupta said.
"Sanjay spent a week in Nepal, helped save a young life in the operating room, and we couldn't be prouder of him," CNN said in a statement provided by Khairzada. "He has our full and unequivocal support."
PTI adds, Gupta “assisted the surgeons at Bir Hospital by performing a craniotomy on a young victim,” the network said. “Some reporting has suggested it was not the young girl we, at the time of our own reporting in the midst of the crisis, believed her to be. We will try to verify that.”
Gupta's medical assistance, particularly in disaster zones, is sometimes shown on the network’s newscasts.
CNN had provided video to the Global Press Journal, a publication of a San Francisco-based nonprofit that supports female journalists in developing-world countries, more than a week ago that showed Gupta's role in the surgery, contradicting the initial claim that he hadn't helped at all.
“He was, if anything, relatively modest on the air in characterizing his own role. He simply appears to have been fundamentally wrong about the identity of his patient,” said NPR's David Folkenflik, who was informed of the journal's reporting ahead of time.
The story of Gupta’s gaffe was the result of a tip and weeks of persistent shoe-leather reporting on the ground by Nepalese journalist Shilu Manandhar, according to The Daily Beast.
—With AP, PTI reports