Woman Loses Jaw After Mistaken Cancer Diagnosis

And now, a new reason to hate going to the dentist. A New Zealand woman had part of her jaw removed after a dental hospital mix-up resulted in her being wrongly diagnosed with mouth cancer.

A Medlab Dental pathologist dropped two tissue samples on the floor, mixed them up, but decided to go on with his/her jolly day anyway. Unfortunately, this meant disaster for a 63-year-old patient suffering simple swelling and a sinus infection from a tooth implant. She was misdiagnosed with mouth cancer, and the right side of her upper jaw was removed. To reconstruct her jaw, bone and blood vessels were taken from her leg. She now has trouble walking.

The New Zealand dental hospital, part of the University of Otago Dental Hospital, is now under fire for the lab mix-up.

“I can’t for the life of me understand how you can get tissue samples mixed up,” said Dr. Iain Wilson, the oral surgeon who sent her biopsy to the lab. “I am astonished and horrified by these lab mix-ups.”

The hospital has apologized to the woman, but she doesn’t care, she’s getting herself a damned lawyer! Who can blame her? The woman, thus far unidentified, is seeking compensation. New Zealand’s Health and Disability Commissioner is investigating the incident as well.

New Zealand needs to show a bit more care with their lab results. Amazingly, this is about the sixth time something like this has happened down there. One pathologist admitted an error that resulted in a woman having one of her breasts removed. Unnecessarily, of course. Instead of apologizing, he blamed the rigorous schedules that pathologists work under. How can they be expected to meet a five-day deadline for breast cancer diagnosis, he asked. Well, they really need 10 days, actually. This type of thing isn’t all that uncommon in the U.S. either.

So next time your doctor hands you a diagnosis that will affect your daily life from here on out, print up a copy of this article, hand it to him/her and ask, “Are you sure?” You have my blessing.