To err is human … but to forgive may still be difficult

A story in the Boston Globe this morning documents two cases in which prostate biopsy results given to a specific patient were inaccurate because the wrong patient data was provided by a pathology laboratory.

In one of the two cases, a patient was given a radical prostatectomy despite the fact that he never had cancer. (The patient also appears to have significant urinary tract and erectile function complications resulting from his surgery.) In the second case a patient was initially told he did not have any indication of cancer, then 8 months later he was found to have cancer that had already spread to a lymph node.

It seems extremely sad that, with the technological abilities we have today to track the precise whereabouts of a specific cellphone, we still regularly come across this type of medical error. There have been enormous efforts by hospitals and other institutions over the past 20 years to reduce the rates of such medical errors, but they do still occur — and at a rate that we should be able to improve. The consequences of such medical errors can be devastating for the individuals affected — and of course they continue to fuel the medical malpractice “sub-industry” that profoundly impacts the cost of health care insurance in America.

The “New” Prostate Cancer InfoLink wishes to express its concern to the two patients involved, their families, and to the clinicians who — acting in good faith — operated on the patient who had no cancer.

One Response

  1. In the information technology industry we call it “garbage in-garbage out”. Information is only as good as the source, you can forgive the computer.

    At HealingWell two years ago, we had a guy who had 1 of 12 cores positive G6. He decided on surgery. Epstein reviewed the prostate post-op ~ no cancer found. They removed a perfectly good prostate … ugh! Even today he might choose to be on active surveillance … enduring many PSA tests and probably a re-biopsy or two … wondering if he should start treatment.

    Of course, then again, he could have selected radiation therapy and added some percentage points to the “cured column” in an abstract.

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