A New Zealand pensioner chopped off one of his rotting, gangrenous fingers with a pair of scissors because he could no longer stand the pain after waiting 20 months for surgery, it was reported. The plight of Ted Matthews, from Timaru in the South Island, made headline television news here, with gruesome footage shown of his hand with one blackened finger and thumb still dangling and two middle fingers gone.
The story drew the attention of Health Minister Annette King, who has asked health officials to brief her on the case.
Matthews is suffering from dry gangrene following cardiac surgery 20 months ago in Christchurch Hospital and his fingers are rotting and dying as a result. Two of his fingers have already rotted off and he is desperate for surgery to amputate two remaining fingers. He told Television One News he had been taking the strongest painkillers available since January last year to combat the often unbearable pain. He used a pair of kitchen scissors earlier this year in desperation to chop off one of his rotting fingers.
Christchurch Hospital general manager Jim Magee said Matthews had been scheduled for surgery in the first week of September. However, Matthews said he received a letter yesterday from the hospital telling him he would have to wait a further six months at least. Magee said Matthews had a history of severe coronary artery disease, heart disease, renal failure, diverticulitis and diabetes, and had suffered three strokes.
Staffing shortages are endemic throughout most New Zealand public hospitals which complain of underfunding. Many patients increasingly opt for private health care if they can afford it.
Matthews said he would not let even his small pet dog to suffer the way he had. "I'd shoot him rather than let him be treated the way I have," he said.
From: AFP 15 August, 2002