A medical center in Winston Salem, North Carolina has given an excellent example of why patients should always seek a second opinion for detrimental diagnoses.
Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center is under investigation after it was discovered that they improperly diagnosed at least 10 cancer patients due to pathology lab errors. The medical center is currently reviewing over 9,000 cases to determine if any other errors were made.
The perilous mistakes caused three patients to receive surgery that they didn’t need. One patient, who has told she had breast cancer, underwent a double mastectomy that she later learned she didn’t need. Perhaps worse, another patient received an “underdiagnosis” of her breast cancer, which delayed her treatment a full 13 months.
A government report by Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services revealed that the lab in question had several problems that could have led to these potentially fatal oversights. CMS discovered that the lab’s employees were not receiving sufficient training, which led to poor equipment maintenance, issues with lab supplies, and documentation errors.
Although the errors in question have been traced to a single employee identified as “MD #7,” CMS states that the fault doesn’t lie with one doctor. According to their report, the CMS inspectors saw that the lab workers were not monitoring “water quality, temperature, and humidity levels in the lab.” Furthermore, many of the lab supplies were expired, some dating back to more than a decade ago. CMS has given the hospital until June to resolve these problems or it may be in danger of losing its Medicare certification.
Wake Forest Baptist has been quiet in response to questions about the status of its case reviews. According to CMS, who interviewed Michael Benjamin Cohen, chair of the pathology department, the hospital has taken measures to ensure that “more qualified individuals.” They have also created a new procedure that forces positive breast cancer results to be reviewed by two separate pathologists.
Regardless, this situation serves as a reminder that doctors and medical facilities do make mistakes. It’s important to take your health into your own hands. One of the best ways to do that is to seek a second opinion when you’re getting a crucial diagnosis or when your gut tells you that something doesn’t seem right.