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Wednesday, 01 November 2017 00:00

An Oregon woman underwent an unnecessary double mastectomy and hysterectomy after her normal tests were incorrectly read to indicate that she was at risk for breast and uterine cancer.

Written by Jonathan Druckman

Months after she underwent the painful surgeries, she found that her treating doctors had allegedly been mistaken in reading her test results. She is suing her doctors for $1.8 million.

The plaintiff in this case is a 36-year-old mother of two. According to her lawsuit, a nurse practitioner had initially misread her test results and then referred her to specialists for additional treatment. She then underwent surgery for a hysterectomy and double mastectomy. It is alleged that the doctors who performed the surgery failed to double check the test results that had been misinterpreted. While a small group of woman have voluntarily removed both breasts because they were considered at high risk to develop breast cancer. However, the plaintiff was not part of this voluntary group.

The plaintiff was actually the one who subsequently noticed that the nurse practitioner had incorrectly read the results. She feels a sense of betrayal that she trusted the members of her community and the hospital. “Devastated,” she said, remembering how she felt at the time. “I’m just not sure how you can mistake a negative for a positive.” It is still unclear how the test results were misinterpreted.

Medical malpractice lawsuits are more complex than ordinary tort claims. The plaintiff must utilize experts willing to testify that a health care professional, such as a doctor or surgeon, was negligent in treating (or failing to treat) a patient. This medical standard of care is often defined as the level of care that a reasonably competent practitioner with the same background, located within the same medical community, would have owed the patient. This means that in determining whether a doctor committed malpractice, neurosurgeons are compared to other neurosurgeons while general practitioners are compared to other general practitioners etc.

Many states now have imposed limits on the maximum amount that could be recovered for non-economic losses in medical malpractice cases. In these states, the amounts that can be awarded for pain, suffering, permanent injuries and loss of enjoyment of life are often quite limited. Some states have imposed limits as low as $250,000 for such losses. Fortunately, the plaintiff in this case, was able to file suit in a state without such limits.

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