Patient group calls for input after needless mastectomy

A patient advocacy organization is calling for more patient input into reviewing mistakes made in Nova Scotia that led to a woman receiving an unnecessary mastectomy earlier this year.

HALIFAX — A patient advocacy organization is calling for more patient input into reviewing mistakes made in Nova Scotia that led to a woman receiving an unnecessary mastectomy earlier this year.

Alies Maybee of Patients Canada thinks the oversight process at Capital District Health Authority played a role in a patient having a breast needlessly removed in late March.

The woman had been misdiagnosed with cancer and assigned unnecessary treatment after pathology reports were mistakenly switched between two medical charts.

“Our thought is that (the process) needs to be revised, and it should be revised with the input of patients,” said Maybee.

The mistake was detected in laboratories at the Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre in Halifax, where samples from the entire health authority — which serves the Halifax area and part of a neighbouring county — are collected to be processed and analyzed.

An oversight system — referred to as a quality assurance mechanism — compares all processed tissue from before and after a surgery to ensure they are the same.

“What’s supposed to happen is they match,” Capital Health CEO Chris Power said on Monday after the mistake was made public. “But in this case they didn’t and that’s when we were alerted that we have a problem here.”

Maybee described the process as “a little like closing the barn door after the horse has left.”

Now would be a good opportunity to involve patients in the discussion, she added.

“I think everyone can benefit from the experience and understanding and perspective that patients and their caregivers bring to the system,” she said.

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