The Toronto Star
August 13, 2013
One woman mistakenly had her breast removed, while another underwent an unnecessary biopsy after two pairs of test results were switched at a Halifax hospital. Meanwhile, two other breast cancer patients did not immediately receive the procedures they needed.
Nova Scotia's largest health authority admitted to the mistakes on Monday, and issued a public apology to the four affected breast cancer patients and their families.
Chris Power, CEO and president of the Capital Health District Health Authority, who is a breast cancer survivor, said she felt "sick" when she learned of the errors.
"I have real empathy for these people who are going through this," Power said. "It's devastating for everybody, particularly for our patients, but (also) for our staff who are involved. We certainly never want to do harm."
Power said both mix-ups occurred at the laboratory at the Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Center in Halifax. The errors were uncovered by lab staff during quality assurance tests when post-op biopsies didn't match earlier samples, she said.
In the case of the mistaken mastectomy, the pathology results of tissue samples taken from two patients were switched due to a recording error. While one patient underwent surgery she didn't need, the other was not scheduled for surgery she required.
In the second instance, a breast-cancer patient received an unneeded biopsy after her tissue sample was switched with that of a patient who did not need the procedure.
Power said the first error was detected in April and the second in May. The health authority would not release the names or ages of the patients. According to CBC, the mistaken mastectomy was performed in March on a woman in her 60s. She is being represented by Halifax lawyer Ray Wagner, CBC reports.
Power said the health authority is not currently facing any legal action.
"We've not been served with any lawsuit at this time but that will certainly be up to the patients and open to them," she said.
In 2010, a woman settled a lawsuit against a Windsor, Ontario, hospital, for an undisclosed amount after her breast was removed in error.
None of the medical staff involved in the mix-ups in Halifax is facing disciplinary action, Power said.
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