Nova Scotia

Mystery over 2nd mastectomy victim

Capital Health won't say what happened to a woman who needed a mastectomy, but did not get it straight away.

Woman needed cancer surgery but did not get it

The Capital District Health Authority won’t say what happened to a woman who needed a mastectomy, but did not get it straight away.

CBC News has spoken to Sharon Fisher, the woman who wrongly received the mastectomy. Another woman had a necessary surgery delayed after their test results were switched.

Delay of weeks or months

Chris Power, CEO of the Halifax-area hospital, says the second woman was notified and received the care she needed in a timely fashion. She said that could mean the woman went weeks or months without the surgery.

Power would not say if the delay harmed the woman’s health. Capital Health would not say if the woman has survived.

"There are lots of schools of thought about the timeliness once you're diagnosed and when you get treatments," Power said. "Some say a matter of months isn't going to make a difference, but again there's lots of science out there in one way or another."

CBC asked Capital Health for more information about the unnamed woman, but Power cited patient confidentiality. CBC asked if the health authority had negotiated an out-of-court settlement, but a spokesman declined to comment. He said even if there had been a settlement, it would be a legal matter and not made public.

Dalhousie law professor Elaine Gibson told CBC News it's not uncommon to try to reach a quick out-of-court settlement with the patient in such cases.

Generally, such settlements require confidentiality, meaning the woman might be prohibited from discussing the incident.

1st victim turned down meeting

Sharon Fisher said after she met with her surgeon to learn about the blunder, she received a call from Capital Health asking to meet. She declined.

"At that point I didn't want to hear anything. I didn't want any apologies. I just didn't want anything to do with them," she said.

Fisher had been planning a spring trip to visit her son when she was given the false breast-cancer diagnosis in February. At her surgeon’s advice, she cancelled the trip to have the surgery without delay.

"She said there was no guarantee that it wouldn't spread if I didn't have the surgery," she said.

She had the surgery in March. She found out it was all a mistake in May. 

Capital Health said Monday it made mistakes in two separate instances, both involving cancer patients.

In a second, separate case, tissue samples were switched before the pathology analysis. One patient had an unnecessary diagnostic biopsy and the other patient never got the follow-up they needed.

Capital Health is releasing few details about the patients.