Thorbjörn Johansson, 64, was told in March 2009 that he a malignant tumour in his right lung. However, the Karolinska University Hospital in Stockholm had confused his medical samples with another patient who had died a week earlier.
Johannson had given his samples a few months earlier when he was treated for a foot injury. The hospital admitted the error two years later and said they “caused serious injury or illness”.
“I didn’t know how to react. What should I believe? Of course I was happy but also surprised and confused,” Johannson told the Metro newspaper after doctors revealed the false diagnosis.
That feeling was somewhat different to when he was given the original news that he had lung cancer.
“I thought; Well that’s it! That life would end like this. It was awful information to receive,” he told the paper.
“I went to the Philippines to tell my family and there was a lot of tears and gnashing of teeth. I think the family took it harder than I did.”
Johannson was 61 when he got the news and told Metro that he’d rarely been ill in his life. He was then working as an international consultant in the building trade with his own company.
Since the unnecessary surgery he’s been unable to work having lost a large part of his lung capacity and suffered permanent nerve damage.
“I get out of breath just walking up the stairs or a slope. I pant like something terrible. The nerve damage on the right side of my chest means it hurts like hell when I breathe,” he said.
“I haven’t been able to work since and am living off savings and loans. Recently I had to go social services just so I could support myself.”
Karolinska University Hospital has since changed procedures in the wake of the mishap. They were heavily criticized by the National Board of Health and Welfare (Socialstyrelsen) for not revealing the error for two years.
“A notification must be submitted to the national board within two months,” it said in a statement.
Johannson and his lawyer Jan Thörnhammar are presently preparing a lawsuit against the hospital.