Woman sues hospital after lab mix-up leads to unnecessary rectal surgery

A Florida woman who had a false cancer diagnosis and subsequent removal of part of her rectum is suing for the release of her medical records, reported the Orlando Sentinel.

The woman, identified as Jane Doe, went in for a routine colon exam in December. Her tissue sample was mixed up with that of a man with rectal cancer, the suit alleges, leading to her diagnosis of aggressive cancer. The woman, a 68-year-old retiree, said that prior to her diagnosis, she had been in good health, exercised regularly and did not take any medication.

"I really thought I was dying for many months," she told the Orlando Sentinel in a phone interview. "I literally had my daughter drive down … from Minnesota for Christmas because we all thought this was probably the last Christmas we would be together.”

On January 14, she had surgery at Florida Hospital in Orlando to remove part of her rectum.

Prior to the surgery, the woman noticed problems with the diagnosis. She had a series of pre-operative biopsies to try to pinpoint the cancer’s location, but they came back negative. After she asked the hospital to double check the lab work, personnel told her that she did have cancer. Following the operation, lab work on the removed tissue showed there had never been any cancer, the suit claims.

The woman’s doctor called on May 4, saying that DNA testing confirmed there was never cancer present.

"I was euphoric. I felt like a big, heavy shroud had been taken away from me," she said. "I've still got the phone message. … I've put the phone away so I won't lose it."

The hospital did apologize to her in August, but the suit notes that they failed to provide detailed records documenting the mix-up, which violates federal and state laws. The suit is asking a judge to order the hospital to release the related documents, and to appoint a special master to handle the records.

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