A doctor has been ordered to apologise to the family of a New
Zealand woman who died after he "completely forgot" to tell
her she had breast cancer.
The woman died earlier this year after a five-year battle
with breast cancer which her GP failed to diagnose quickly,
despite being told by a specialist that she probably had the
In a scathing report released by New Zealand's Health and
Disability Commissioner Anthony Hill yesterday, the GP was
told to review his practice and audit his clinical files to
ensure he didn't miss more cancer cases involving other
The woman, who had breast cancer treatment in 2003, went to
the unidentified medical centre in November 2009 complaining
of pain in her left shoulder.
The doctor, who was aware she was a cancer survivor, referred
her for an x-ray which a specialist radiologist said revealed
a tendon tear that appeared "highly suggestive of
metastasis", or the spread of cancerous lesions.
The GP saw the woman again several days later but failed to
tell her about the cancer link, instead only informing her of
the tendon tear and giving her a steroid injection which the
woman said was "excruciating".
She was told to return in a month if the pain persisted,
which she did once in December and again in January before
the doctor finally referred her to an orthopaedic surgeon.
The woman was diagnosed in February 2010, after which she
changed doctors. Despite several years of active treatment,
the woman died.
The doctor told the inquiry he "either overlooked or
completely forgot about the radiologist's comment in relation
to a suspicious lesion", the report states.
Mr Hill criticised the GP for failing to read his own notes,
ask the right questions, or reflect on his patient's medical
history when assessing her.
"Doctors owe patients a duty of care in handling patient test
results, including advising patients of, and following up on,
results," he said.
The GP has been referred to the Director of Proceedings for
possible legal action.