Thanks much to all who replied. The doctors aren't being straight with my friend, but we (his family and friends) have pieced together some things based on doctor statements and their reactions to each other. We believe my friend was supposed to have had a rectal catheter in place for several days following the sugery, but did not. It hadn't been discussed with him at his pre-op meeting so he didn't expect or miss it. When the medical team came to take it out they found he didn't have one. (He had to tell them three times he didn't have one before they believed he really didn't.) We all recognized that, uh, yeah, that would have been a good thing to have had in place. Instead, he had constant watery-diareah-like movements and was trying to make it to the bathroom from within hours after surgery. He often didn't make it, but he tried. (And none of the medical team acted like this was out of the ordinary, so we all accepted it as the norm.)
He ended up with a "leak" at the site where his ileum was reconnected to his rectum. He had fecal matter, etc. leaking into his abdomon for several days before they did a CT scan to see what was going on. He did eventually recover from the massive infection but he had a lot of complications and has some continuing concerns.
We now are now wondering if the leak occurred because he didn't have a catheter and because he was holding back movements that were coming with violent force. I've been researching this and have learned that "leaks" like this are pretty rare, but I can't find any info on the standard course of post-op care, i.e., whether a catheter is routine.
It may be that the only thing the catheter would have prevented would have been a great deal of suffering and humiliation (i.e., perhaps its omission didn't cause the leak) but we're pretty sure he would have died without us being there to force them to act when it was apparent he was dying and they were playing hot potato. Regardless, my advice to anybody who is going to be hospitalized at any time for anything (based on several experiences, not just this one) is to research it extensively beforehand so you know what to expect, and to bring bodyguards (friends and family) who have been educated.
Specifically, be sure you understand the worse case scenarios, how to recognize them, and who will be responsible for seeing you through any problems that occur. (That last part may be more important than you might assume.) See this past Sunday's Parade Magazine (insert to many Sunday papers) for the type of things to watch out for.