Eight people who were given clean bills of health following colonoscopies at the Lakeshore General Hospital are now being told they have colon cancer.

Last fall, a recall of nearly 700 colonoscopies was done as a precautionary measure after an internal audit found a doctor at the Lakeshore had botched procedures done between 2009 and 2012.

Of the 700, 469 people got re-tested. Malignant lesions were detected by 1.7 per cent of those 469 — or eight people.

"That number is within the norms of general scoping," said  Barry Stein, the president of the Colorectal Cancer Association of Canada.

However, he said, what isn’t yet known is whether it’s advanced or early-stage cancers.

"We don’t know what the stage is of those malignancies. Were these cancers that started and could have been detected at that time? Or are they very early-stage malignancies that could have started after that?" Stein asked.

Of those who were initially tested, approximately 200 of them either weren’t re-tested, or fell off the radar. Stein said they represent a significant number of people to not have information about in a case such as this.

"Did these people die, did they have cancers themselves, did they die from other reasons, did they get scoped, or did they just refuse to do it?" Stein said.

Quebec’s college of physicians said the doctor in question has been banned from practicing surgery and performing colonoscopies in Quebec institutions. He also no longer works at the Lakeshore.

He is, however, still listed as an active physician, and he is permitted to perform some anoscopies.

Lawsuits to be launched

At least two law firms are investigating, and a class action lawsuit is in the works.

Jean-François Leroux is a lawyer specializing in medical malpractice. He said the law firm he works for has been in contact with some Lakeshore patients and said they have a solid case.

"For those who decided to redo the test, well they had to undergo a new colonoscopy which otherwise might not have been required," Leroux said.

"And more important, colonoscopies are not risk-free procedures. They are associated also with risk of perforations, infections and permanent lesions."

Paul Brunet is the chairman of the Council For the Protection of Patients. He said from a statistical point of view, 1.7 per cent of people is not a lot.

"But from the human being point of view, it’s always too much," he said.

"We’re talking about the difference of knowing that we’re going to survive and being told that we’re going to die."