Breast cancer surgeon cleared of professional misconduct
Omission of patient mammogram was not a failure, inquiry chairman says
A breast cancer surgeon facing allegations of professional misconduct was a “very dedicated doctor”, a Medical Council fitness to practise inquiry heard this morning
A breast cancer surgeon whose 40-year-old patient had her diagnosis delayed by 10 months has been cleared of professional misconduct at a Medical Council fitness-to-practise inquiry today.
The doctor, who was unnamed by direction of the Medical Council, had been cleared of failing to consider adequately or at all his patient’s condition, failing to carry out an adequate examination, failing to refer her for specialist review and failing to arrange adequate follow up. He was also cleared of carrying out an ultrasound without being qualified.
Ms K was referred to Dr C by her GP in August 2007, suffering from lumps in her left breast. He carried out a physical examination of Ms K at the first appointment and also carried out an ultrasound himself, but did not refer her for a mammogram. She was not diagnosed with breast cancer until June 2008. She died of breast cancer in September 2012.
In the course of the inquiry, most of the allegations against Dr C fell away, leaving three to be considered by the committee, centring on the delay in carrying out a mammogram.
Chairman of the inquiry committee Dr Michael Ryan said the committee believed while the omission of a mammogram “might appear incorrect in hindsight” it was not a failure “having regard to the prevailing conditions at the time, including the resources available”.
He expressed his “sincere sympathy” at the untimely death of Ms K.
In earlier evidence this morning, a colleague described Dr C as a “very dedicated doctor”.
Dr B, a consultant colorectal and breast cancer surgeon said he had the “highest respect” for his colleague.
Questioned this morning on whether Dr C should have sent Ms K for a mammogram after her first visit, Dr B said “there would be very few surgeons who would have done anything differently with the resources available”.
“I would not have done anything differently and I firmly believe most people would not have done anything differently,” he said.
When there are limited resources, “you have to make a choice between one patient and another; if you decide one patient gets a mammogram, then the other one doesn’t”, Dr B said.
Under cross-examination he conceded that “in hindsight, a mammogram would have been helpful” for Ms K.