Woman has her jaw removed after being wrongly diagnosed with cancer

Published On: Sunday, November 25, 2012 1:00 PM
By: Helene Fox
Hospital bed
An unidentified 63-year-old woman is seeking compensation from the University of Otago Dental Hospital in Dunedin, New Zealand, after an unnecessary operation left her with a series of health problems.

The woman, who was suffering from a sinus infection and facial swelling from a tooth implant, was told that she had mouth cancer and that she would need to have the right side of her upper jaw removed. Bone and blood vessels were taken from her lower leg and used to reconstruct her jaw, which led to complications, infections, and her struggle to walk.

It was later discovered that the patient’s tissue sample had no signs of cancer and that the test results were mixed up. The misdiagnosis reportedly occurred when a laboratory worker confused two tissue samples that were dropped on the floor.

“I am being asked to believe two samples were being processed simultaneously and the pots were simultaneously dropped,” Dr. Iain Wilson, the surgeon who conducted the operation, said. “I can't for
 the life of me understand how you can get tissue samples mixed up. I am astonished and horrified by these lab mix-ups.”

The hospital has since apologized to the patient and the case is being investigated by New Zealand’s Health and Disability Commission.
“We have taken this incident very seriously, and have already taken all appropriate measures to minimize the likelihood of any such incidents occurring again,” university faculty of medicine dean Prof Peter Crampton said.