Are these mistakes excusable? No, not really. We who work in the NICU always have to be mindful that little things can make big differences in little babies. If you’re cutting tape that is on a baby you have to always know where the tip – and every other part - of your scissors are. Better yet, cut the tape the right length before putting it on the baby’s face, instead of afterwards. Unfortunately, though, sometimes one has to make a mistake like this to learn how picky you have to be around neonates. Fortunately the majority of us learn it without having to cut off some flesh.
What to do with the person who cut off the body piece? In my experience the perpetrator is so horrified that no disciplinary action can punish them further than they are punishing themselves. When I was a fellow in neonatology, I cut my forearm in a cooking accident badly enough that it needed stitches. I went to the emergency room of the same hospital where the tip of the toddler’s finger had been cut off, and who should be my nurse but the very one who had cut off the toddler’s fingertip. Frankly, I didn’t even remember her - it had been a couple of years since the incident. But she clearly remembered it (of course) and told me her gratitude that I, the toddler’s physician, had recognized her mortification and hadn’t raked her over the coals for it. It was weird: an incident I barely remembered had had a huge impact on her. I still kept a pretty close eye on her, though, when she pulled out her scissors.
What to do with people who twice cut off a piece of a body? They have to go. Fortunately, I’ve never seen that happen.