The dismissed pathologist at the centre of a public inquiry into misdiagnosed medical tests in New Brunswick says he's willing to apologize for any mistakes, but is not willing to accept responsibility.
In an exclusive interview with CBC News on Wednesday afternoon, Rajgopal Menon said he took "practically zero" responsibility for the incomplete tests and misdiagnoses at the Miramichi Regional Health Authority.
Menon, 73, worked as a pathologist at the health authority in eastern New Brunswick from 1995 until February 2007, when he was suspended following complaints about incomplete diagnoses and delayed lab results.
Health Minister Mike Murphy called a formal inquiry into the pathology work at the Miramichi hospital after an independent audit of 227 cases of breast and prostate cancer biopsies from 2004-05 found 18 per cent had incomplete results and three per cent had been misdiagnosed.
While testifying before the inquiry, headed by Justice Paul Creaghan, Menon apologized to patients but said he was not aware of any errors in his work.
'Volume related' problems, Menon says
In a later interview, Menon told CBC News that if there were errors, there was a reason for it.
"I had a high volume. It's all volume related," Menon said. "If you have a high volume, you never catch up with your work."
Menon said hospital administrators have made him the scapegoat of a flawed system. He also suggested that racism might be connected to his removal from the hospital.
"I'm not the only one," Menon said. "There were six doctors, their contracts were not renewed because they were East Indians."
Menon said he does not accept what he has heard in testimony before the commission, which began on May 5, so far.
The former CEO of the Miramichi hospital, John Tucker, told the inquiry in May he was "borderline desperate" for a pathologist when he hired Menon in the 1990s and didn't check his references closely.
A doctor who twice conducted reviews of Menon's work testified this week that there are far more problems with the pathologist's record than originally reported.
Rosemary Henderson said there were 14 incorrectly diagnosed cancer tests done by Menon, not six or eight, as first reported.
She told Creaghan that her testing turned up more cases of people being told they did not have cancer when they did.
She also told the inquiry that she found "discrepancies" with more than 40 of 226 cases she reviewed from 2004 to 2006 for breast and prostate cancers.
These cases needed "correcting," Henderson said, because some of them were missed cancer diagnoses, but may have been picked up later if symptoms recurred in patients.
She is still looking into cases from 2006, not just breast and prostate cancer tests, but a wide variety of tests.
Henderson reviewed Menon's work in the spring of 2007 for the New Brunswick College of Physicians and Surgeons. In November 2007, she did a more in-depth review for the Miramichi General Hospital.
Pathologist had medical problems: review
A peer review of Menon's work, released in March, indicated the pathologist had serious medical problems, including cataracts and tremors in his hands, which could have affected the accuracy of his work.
College registrar Dr. Ed Schollenberg told the public commission that the first complaint about Menon was received in 2006. Menon was repeatedly told that if he retired, the matter would be considered resolved, but Menon refused, Schollenberg said.
Menon said he's "perfectly happy to sit and listen" to what is being said at the testimony. But "I don't accept what they are saying," he said.
Menon said he hopes the inquiry will exonerate him and that his licence will be reinstated so he can resume his work as a pathologist.
Menon will continue to testify at the inquiry, which is being held at the University of Moncton, on Thursday.
The inquiry will then move to Miramichi in June, where any of the patients affected by the initial review of 227 cases can testify. It will return to Moncton for a final four weeks of hearings in September.
Creaghan is expected to make recommendations to the government on how to prevent an excessive level of misdiagnoses from happening again by Jan. 1, 2009.