Respectful Insolence

Talk about a real pain in the…

posterior:

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russians visiting a health resort received a rude shock when a nurse used hydrogen peroxide instead of water to give them enemas.

Itar-Tass news agency reported Thursday that 17 tourists in the Caucasus spa town of Yessentuki had to be treated in hospital after the mix-up.

All I can say is…ouch! It’s a wonder none of them burned a hole in the colon and needed an emergency operation. What would EneMan think? But what’s really funny is the excuse for the mixup:

Sources at the sanatorium said the mistake was explained by water and hydrogen peroxide looking the same. Hydrogen peroxide, which can be used to bleach hair, is used as a disinfectant but should not be ingested.

Well, that certainly explains it. I wonder if no one noticed the foaming that frequently occurs when hydrogen peroxide comes in contact with blood or other bodily fluids (and, make no mistake, if you put undiluted 3% hydrogen peroxide instead of water into someone’s colon, to borrow the title of a movie, There Will Be Blood). Maybe they thought that the bloody, foaming enema effluent that was no doubt being returned (coupled with the screams of spa goers from intense abdominal pain) was nothing more than the “toxins” coming out. Either that, or it was a microenema of inconsequential volume of fluid, a homeopathic enema, if you will.

Never mind, this is getting too disgusting. It just goes to show, though, that one can never underestimate the level of human stupidity.

Comments

  1. #1 Bob O'H
    February 4, 2008

    Imagine the carnage if it had been homeopathic.

    Bob

  2. #2 Mike O'Risal
    February 4, 2008

    Hey, one oxygen, two oxygens… what’s the difference?

    I mean, mercury bound to an ethyl group is the same thing as metallic mercury. An extra oxygen hitched to a water molecule is the same sort of thing. Extra oxygen is GOOD for you! I don’t know what these Russian crybabies are on about. They got a detoxifying enema and oxygen therapy at the same time. Two-for-one!

    (Don’t hurt me.)

  3. #3 Tlazolteotl
    February 4, 2008

    Oh my, that sounds painful.

  4. #4 Aaron
    February 4, 2008

    One day in my old microbiology lab, my advisor came across a full, unlabeled wash bottle. He wanted to know what was in it, so he squirted a little liquid into his hand so he could smell it. Turns out it was 70% ethanol. But as he was wiping his hands, he paused, turned to me, and said, “I guess it’s a good thing that wasn’t hydrochloric acid or anything. That’s a good lesson: don’t put acid in squirt bottles.”

    The moral of the story: EVERYTHING looks like water.

  5. #5 Coin
    February 4, 2008

    Well, that certainly explains it. I wonder if no one noticed the foaming that frequently occurs when hydrogen peroxide comes in contact with blood or other bodily fluids

    …That’s the thing that baffles me here. I can actually sort of understand this mistake occurring once, almost. But how do you get through seventeen people before noticing something is wrong?

  6. #6 Eamon Knight
    February 4, 2008

    The moral of the story: EVERYTHING looks like water.

    A rhyme my mother taught me…a very long time ago, and I now can’t imagine why:

    Little Johnny’s dead and gone,
    his face we’ll see no more;
    for what he thought was aitch-two-oh
    was aitch-two-ess-oh-four!

  7. #7 Blaise Pascal
    February 4, 2008

    @Coin: I could imagine it happening if the enema kits were filled in advance so the practitioner just grabbed a kit (filled with H2O2 by a technician) and didn’t hear the screams of pain coming from the other soundproofed procedure rooms.

  8. #8 blf
    February 4, 2008

    Imagine the carnage if it had been homeopathic.

    ROTFL!!!!

  9. #9 PalMD
    February 4, 2008

    Hmm…sounds like a combo of peroxide woo and poo woo.

  10. #10 CRM-114
    February 4, 2008

    The liquids look the same, but the labels are completely different. This would seem to be a case of failing to bother to read the label, or failing to label a container. Either way, it’s inexcusable.

  11. #11 StuV
    February 4, 2008

    Ah… finally, a way to be blonde on the inside as well.

    *ducks*

  12. #12 Narc
    February 4, 2008

    I guess it’s unlikely they were going for an oxygenating enema. Anything with oxygen’s just *got* to be good for you, right?

  13. #13 wackyvorlon
    February 4, 2008

    Hydrogen peroxide is terribly fierce stuff. 80% peroxide is used as a rocket fuel, and bursts into flame when it comes in contact with organic materials.

    The fact that their procedures for handling the peroxide allowed this mixup is very alarming indeed.

  14. #14 Dr Aust
    February 4, 2008

    I am sure there are Alties out there now just waiting to market H2O2 enemas (though possibly less concentrated) as “Accelerated oxygen therapy colonic irrigation detox”TM. After all, aren’t there quacks who give people intravenous H2O2 to “oxygenate their blood”?

    This turned up a while back on TV in an episode of CSI Vegas called “Crow’s Feet”, where an anti-ageing doctor kills his patients (accidentally-ish) by giving them “intravenous hydrogen peroxide therapy”. I thought they had made the intravenous H2O2 stuff up – surely no-one could be that dumb? – until I went and had a look round on the Internet.

  15. #15 Dianne
    February 4, 2008

    “I guess it’s a good thing that wasn’t hydrochloric acid or anything. That’s a good lesson: don’t put acid in squirt bottles.”

    Huh. I would have thought the lesson would be “don’t spray unknown lab substances on your hands.” Not to mention “label your reagents (and cleaning supplies)”

  16. #16 Lilly de Lure
    February 5, 2008

    I hate to sound unsympathetic but there is a bright side to this in that there are now 17 woo believers (or ex-believers?) who will I’m guesing be extremely sceptical in future when it comes to ignorance-based therapies!

  17. #17 Calli Arcale
    February 5, 2008

    0% peroxide is used as a rocket fuel, and bursts into flame when it comes in contact with organic materials.

    The correct term is “propellant”. H2O2 usually acts as oxidizer, not fuel, but can also be used as a monopropellant.

    Hydrogen peroxide is actually considered non-toxic by the standards of rocket propellant, but this is mainly by comparison to some of the others, such as hydrazine and nitrogen tetroxide. Though it had a major role in the early days of rocketry, today it is mainly used by hobbyists and for attitude control thrusters. It may make a comeback, but presently there are no orbital launch vehicles currently using it for their main thrust.

    Regarding the original post, I find myself wondering if the nurses didn’t use H2O2 on purpose, and then claimed it was a mistake when the results were so disastrous. There was a death not too long ago in this country from a doctor injecting H2O2 into a patient to give her the benefit of “extra oxygen”. She died of an embolism, IIRC. So it’s possible the nurses had been suckered in by peroxide woo, as another poster alluded to.

  18. #18 G Barnett
    February 5, 2008

    Sooo, what you all are saying is that the patients made it to the ER via rocket-assist?

  19. #19 Sid Schwab
    February 5, 2008

    They’re lucky their colons didn’t perforate. I know of an instance wherein a nurse irrigated an abdominal abscess cavity with undiluted peroxide, and the cavity tore asunder and contaminated the entire peritoneum.

    On the other hand, the fizzing colon might have felt real good.

  20. #20 robopox
    February 5, 2008

    man, what I would have given to
    have been there with a lighter…..

    all that methane, and the oxygen produced by
    the catalase positive gut flora……

    did someone say propellant?

    as Orac says: “the stupid….it BURNS!”

  21. #21 grendelkhan
    February 6, 2008

    Yeah, I’ve done that. Back in first-year chemistry, they had a white-capped squirt bottle (water) and a red-capped squirt bottle (acetone). I started to use the latter to rinse my hands before wondering why they suddenly felt so cold

  22. #22 David C. Brayton
    February 7, 2008

    Seventeen?! You might think that after oh, say, eight enemas that went horribly wrong, the nurse might have figured it out. I suspect that there was something nefarious about this nurse