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Clerical error, cancer misdiagnosis cause woman to lose organs

Receiving a cancer diagnosis is almost always a terrifying experience for North Carolina residents and their loved ones. The journey through treatment is often long, painful and draining. It seems hard to imagine going through a radical cancer treatment, only to find out that it was entirely unnecessary.

One 45-year-old woman was forced to go through this ordeal when there was a failure to diagnose her medical condition accurately. After a routine visit to her gynecologist, the woman received word that a polyp removed during her appointment showed that she had a virulent form of uterine cancer. Doctors responded by removing her uterus, ovaries, fallopian tubes, cervix and nearby lymph nodes two weeks later.

The woman anxiously awaited test results to see if the drastic operation had been effective. However, she was soon notified that she never had cancer in the first place, and her organs did not need to be removed.

There was a terrible mix-up with her medical records: The doctor's secretary accidentally indicated that the polyp was malignant, when in reality it was only benign. Rather than being relieved about being cancer-free, the woman is now grappling with a completely new set of problems.

To this day, the woman is dealing with the effects of the misdiagnosis. She was very suddenly left to deal with menopause and suffers from frequent, chronic pain due to the removal of her lymph nodes. She notes that she has not been the "same person" since the medical error occurred.

Shortly after she received the bad news from her doctor, the hospital issued an apology and offered her an out-of-court settlement for their negligence. The woman decided to accept the settlement.

The move to apologize and settle without going to court is regularly-enforced policy at this particular hospital. Instead of dealing with the public exposure of a medical malpractice lawsuit, hospitals would rather take care of their affairs in a quieter fashion.

In reality, the woman probably could have brought a civil claim against her health care provider, and there is a good chance she would have been successful. Patients who suffer at the hands of negligent medical professionals should receive compensation at a level that truly parallels their pain, grief and suffering. Patients should hold their physicians to a high standard and make them accountable when they fail to fulfill their duties.

Source: The Boston Globe, "Mass. hospitals urged to apologize, settle," Liz Kowalczyk, May 27, 2012

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