• Sweden edition
 

Louise, 34, loses breast 'by mistake'

Published: 19 Jul 2011 10:27 GMT+02:00
Updated: 19 Jul 2011 10:27 GMT+02:00

When Louise, 34, from Gävle, in central Sweden found a lump in her breast last autumn she turned to her local hospital to have it examined.

“They said they found cancer cells and wanted to take new tests,” she told newspaper Aftonbladet.

After two tests came back positive for cell changes she was certain she was right in taking the difficult decision to have the breast removed.

“If I had cancer the breast had to go, there was no question about it. My mother died from cancer when I was little and it could be hereditary. I didn’t want to leave my kids the way I was left,” she told the Aftonbladet tabloid.

In December the doctors at the hospital removed her left breast and seven lymphatic nodes under her arm.

But at the post-op check up she received a shock when a specialist, whom she hadn’t seen before, told her that they were very sorry but she had never had cancer at all – they had removed her breast for no medical reason.

According to local paper Gefle Dagblad, the mammography hadn’t shown cancer and several pathologists at the hospital had examined the tissue sample and reached differing conclusions.

When the sample was later sent to a pathologist the cell changes were confirmed, but the specialist suggested that a longer investigation should be carried out. By then it was too late.

Louise now wears a prosthetic breast.

She is waiting for reconstructive surgery, a process that she herself had to instigate with the hospital. The months after the check up have been difficult, she told Gefle Dagblad.

“I have had no medical person to talk to during this process but have had to make sure things have got done myself,“ she told the paper.

At first she was just really pleased it wasn’t cancer but when the shock started to ease she got angry and afraid of the hospital.

The hospital is now considering reporting the incident to the National Board of Health and Welfare (Socialstyrelsen) according to Lex Maria, the name used to refer to regulations governing the reporting of injuries or incidents in the Swedish health care system.

A similar case as Louise’s was reported at the same hospital in the beginning of July when a 47-year-old woman had her breast removed after a contaminated test led doctors to believe she had cancer.

According to Johan Ahlgren of the Oncology department at the hospital, one of the reasons behind why mistakes happen is that there has been a dearth of pathologists at the hospital last year.

“We’ve had a few too few pathologists during the past year, which has led to some mistakes. How many that could be I can’t really say,” he told Gefle Dagblad.

At the county council they are aware of the incidents.

“We have take measures to make sure that the hygiene around test results is better. And in the other case we are investigating why the wrong diagnosis was reached. It is, of course, both awful and unfortunate, “ said Helena Björkman of the Gävleborg County Council to Aftonbladet.

Rebecca Martin (rebecca.martin@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

12:58 July 19, 2011 by el dorado
To my understanding, a doctor in Linköping has been reported SEVEN times to the Socialstyrelsen (in conjunction with Lex Maria). Three times were for missed cancer diagnoses. There's a reported shortage of pathologists at Lindköping's Universitetssjukhuset as well.
14:26 July 19, 2011 by Lovelygirl
Swedish health care... scary!
16:32 July 19, 2011 by jacquelinee
I have been misdiagnosed 2ce and had a prescription written without even a glance at the problem. Get a load of this excerpt from a news article here....

Swedish health authorities haven't dealt with a single malpractice case since taking over responsibility for managing patient complaints at the start of the year.

Since the start of the year, 700 new complaints have come in.

Among the 3,000 unheard patient complaints are roughly 15 to 20 from 2009 which still have yet to be assessed, something which Dahl Fransson admitted isn't helpful for boosting patient safety.

Synnöve Ödegård, a researcher at the Royal Institute of Technology (KTH) in Stockholm, calls the growing pile of unaddressed patient complaints "very unfortunate".

"It's frustrating for patients who think they've received the wrong treatment," she told the newspaper.

She added that the number of people who have been harmed in the Swedish healthcare system is "unacceptably high".
21:42 July 19, 2011 by johnny1939
My blood runs cold when I read articles like this. How dare they be so laissez-faire??? It really boggles the mind. Just think about what would have happen in the US to a hospital, lab and doctor that was that negligent. A friend of mine had a claim for negligence in Stockholm and they gave her kr.30,000 a little something at least. I feel so sad for the girls that have to go through these things for nothing w/ add'l risks of infection and disfigurement. What could you do? Another opinion? Something has to be done about the situation. Sometimes I get the feeling that the doctors really do not care about womens' health issues in Sweden.
22:30 July 19, 2011 by dizzymoe33
This is so very sad. I don't understand the laws in Sweden when it comes to this kind of malpractice!! The damages to the woman both physically and emotionally can never be erased. Wake the hell up Sweden and start to realize you can't gamble with people's lives. I would also suggest trying to get a second or even third opinion if you can before undergoing any type of surgery.
09:06 July 20, 2011 by Prat
People complain about waiting times, so politicians & health officials have tried to speed things up. Most people receive good treatment, but not enough funding has been allocated for review and assessment.

Ultimately we can blame the Moderate Party, who see us proles as consuming commodities and would prefer the efficiency of simple disposal for damaged goods.
10:01 July 20, 2011 by cattie
Ultimately, this is not a political problem. There is a problem with the law and law enforcement. If taxpayers in Sweden want to get well-mananged health care, they will have to change the laws on medical malpractice reporting, consequences are legal remedies. There are systematic problems that lead to malpractice and misdiagnosis and the consquences are so lenient as to be insulting to the victims.

Anything less than a sweeping reform in the public health policies around malpractice will not leave any political party looking good to the health care consumers, which is almost every voter.

I overheard a young woman talking to her friend about the Swedish health care system on the tunnelbana, I had to suppress a laugh at her comment. Her phase was so apt, I wondered if she was an aspiring politician herself.

She said (in Swedish) that the Swedish health care system was like a top of the line Mercedes from the 1970's. And just like any car that old, it has many parts that are falling apart. It does not matter if it was great and ran perfect when it was new. It does not run great everyday NOW.
11:36 July 20, 2011 by cogito
Cattie,

I'm not so sure that Swedish health care was top of the line in the 1970's.

There was much brain-washing along the "Sweden is best..." lines. And the Swedish media at the time did not do its job and report the lapses and atrocities as they do now.

Moreover, Swedes are more enlightened now; they travel abroad more than they did 40 years ago.

They can see how much better health care is in, for example, France, the U.S.A., Spain, Thailand....
20:07 July 20, 2011 by J Jack
Yes , everybody, but Swedes tend to play the free health care card and errors tend to snowball as a result. An American who is paying to have possible cancer cells analyzed would normally not have been mis-diagnosed because of the accountability their system has built into it to avoid expensive legal consequences..
08:48 July 21, 2011 by Just_Kidding
If they want more doctors, they should have more medical schools.
13:26 July 21, 2011 by jacquelinee
If they want knowledgeable, fully educated and trained doctors, they should hire outside of Sweden.
15:57 July 22, 2011 by tadchem
Her breast WAS removed for a medical reason. It just happened that the medical reason was WRONG.
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