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Lungs punctured during acupuncture

Health and Disability Commissioner Anthony Hill today released a report finding an acupuncturist in breach of the Code of Health and Disability Services Consumers’ Rights (the Code) for failures in care when providing acupuncture services to a woman.

The acupuncturist carried out acupuncture needling to "jian jing" points on both sides of the woman’s shoulders. Needling in this area has a known risk of pneumothorax (a collapsed lung).

Mr Hill found that the woman was not informed of the risk of pneumothorax, including that the placement of the needles would be close to her lungs, and the symptoms that could indicate a possible lung injury. This was information the woman needed to give informed consent to the acupuncture.

Mr Hill also found that it was more likely than not that the acupuncturist inserted the needles too deeply, and he was critical that the acupuncturist retained the needles in the jian jing points. Following the acupuncture the woman suffered pain and numbness in her chest, and was found to have two punctured lungs.

Mr Hill considered that the acupuncturist did not take appropriate care, punctured both lungs of her patient, and failed to recognise that her symptoms may have been caused by a pneumothorax, and therefore did not provide services with reasonable care and skill.

The acupuncture clinic was not found in breach of the Code.

Mr Hill made recommendations to the acupuncturist regarding informed consent and further training on acupuncture techniques. Mr Hill also recommended that the acupuncture clinic consider developing formal policies and procedures in relation to obtaining consent. Mr Hill recommended that the New Zealand Acupuncture Standards Authority Inc and Acupuncture New Zealand circulate this case to their members as a learning opportunity.

A full copy of the report for case 18HDC00442 is available on the HDC website.


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