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Pathologist error leads to needless mastectomy

Many medical malpractice cases in Pennsylvania and elsewhere are predicated on a physician's failure to diagnose an illness. What happens when a doctor "finds" an illness that is not, in fact, present in the patient's body? The filing of a recent medical malpractice case in New York City brings this issue into sharp focus.

A mother from Harlem found a lump in her left breast and underwent a biopsy at Mount Sinai Beth Israel Hospital. According to the pathologist who conducted the biopsy, the woman was suffering from infiltrating ductal carcinoma, the most common form of breast cancer. After receiving the diagnosis, the woman was referred to Lenox Hill Hospital for surgery to remove the tumor. The woman endured a mastectomy of her left breast and several other related medical procedures. Then she learned that she did not have the disease after all.

According to the complaint, the pathologist at Mount Sinai misread the slides from the biopsy and found cancer cells that did not exist. The complaint further alleges that Lenox Hill did not follow its own procedures that require an independent review of biopsy slides from another medical institution. The complaint alleges that no such review took place before the surgery. Like most hospitals, Lenox Hill requires that any tissue removed from a patient undergo a post-operative examination. When pathologists were reviewing the breast tissue that had been removed during surgery, they discovered that the woman suffered from sclerosing adenosis, a benign form of breast tissue growth. In other words, the mastectomy had been unnecessary. The case has not yet gone to trial.

As with any other medical or surgical procedure, the interpretation of biopsy slides requires adherence to a very high standard of care. Anyone who has suffered injury or lost a loved one because of a suspected deviation from this standard may wish to consult one of the experienced malpractice lawyers at the Leisawitz Heller Law Firm in Reading for an evaluation of the law and facts that will govern the case and for an estimate of the likelihood of recovering damages.

Source: New York Post, "Doctor cut off my breast by mistake," Carl Campanile, June 19, 2017

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