Top surgeon performed mastectomy on patient who didn’t have cancer – The Globe and Mail

This is indeed a sad story. What are hospital protocols on making sure the right surgery is performed?

via Top surgeon performed mastectomy on patient who didn’t have cancer – The Globe and Mail.

Sarah Boesveld

Globe and Mail Update

A Windsor, Ont., hospital has launched an investigation after one of its renowned surgeons mistakenly performed a mastectomy on a patient who did not have cancer.

Dr. Barbara Heartwell, a surgeon at Hôtel-Dieu Grace Hospital, misread a pathology report and performed the pre-scheduled mastectomy in fall 2009. The diagnosis did not match a pre-surgery pathology report, which said the tumour was benign, the hospital said in a statement.

The patient, whose identity hasn’t been released because of hospital confidentiality rules, learned of the mistake in a follow-up appointment.

Officials apologized Wednesday for what they’re calling a “serious error.”

“We are profoundly sorry that this has occurred,” said board chair Egidio Sovran. “While errors are extremely rare, as a hospital, we take every possible precaution to ensure the highest level of care and we will be conducting a full investigation.”

Dr. Heartwell, whom the hospital said has successfully performed this surgery on thousands of women in the Windsor area, is on vacation and will be monitored when she returns to work. Her pathology reports and the patient’s past mastectomy records are under review to make sure there were no other errors or patient-care issues.

A news organization contacted the hospital for comment about the incident on Feb. 5, spurring the hospital to reach out to the patient and launch the investigation.

2 responses

It is hard to imagine how a doctor could “misread” a pathology report. The more common scenario one hears of is when a doctor does the wrong operation on the wrong patient or operates on the wrong side. There are now very elaborate safeguards in place in America to protect against such unfortunate events.

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