CNN's Sanjay Gupta questioned on Nepali surgery

NEW YORK: CNN said Thursday that it is working to verify the identity of the Nepali patient operated on this spring by its medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta, following a published report that said Gupta mistakenly told viewers that he had treated someone else.

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 Wednesday, 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.

Apparently, different people at the hospital had given conflicting information to the two CNN representatives, Khairzada said.

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."