Health

New Zealand Doctor Says He 'Forgot' To Tell Patient She Had Cancer

| by Jonathan Wolfe

A doctor was recently the subject of a scathing condemnation by the his country’s heath ministry after he admitted to “completely” forgetting to tell a patient she had cancer. The unnamed patient died recently from her battle with cancer.

The patient had an x-ray taken in 2009 after complaining of pain in her left shoulder. After reviewing her images, a specialist at the x-ray center told her that one of her tendons showed strong signs of metastasis – otherwise known as the spreading of cancer.

When the woman visited her general physician a few days later to talk about the x-rays, the New Zealand physician completely overlooked the metastasis symptoms. He simply gave her a steroid injection in the tendon and told her to return in a month if the pain persisted. Sure enough, the pain never left.

In 2010, the woman changed doctors. Her new doctor reviewed her x-rays and issued more tests, and quickly diagnosed her with cancer. She passed away recently after several years of treatment.

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After her death, the woman’s family filed a complaint with New Zealand's Health and Disability department about the former doctors missed diagnosis. During the ensuing investigation, the doctor told officials that he "either overlooked or completely forgot about the radiologist's comment in relation to a suspicious lesion.”

That logic didn’t fly with Health and Disability Commissioner Anthony Hill, who slammed the doctor for his carelessness.

"Doctors owe patients a duty of care in handling patient test results, including advising patients of, and following up on, results,” Hill said.

The doctor has been ordered to review all of his patient records to ensure he didn’t miss any other important symptoms in other cases. According to the Sydney Morning Herald, he may face legal charges. 

Sources: Sydney Morning Herald, The Guardian