The Royal Darwin Hospital is facing major backlash after a breast cancer misdiagnosis led to two women's breast removal. The patients, aged 60 and 25, were treated by the same doctor.
First Patient Was Advised To Have Breast Removed Right Away
Rachel (not her real name), 60, said that she moved to Darwin late in 2012 to support her daughter-in-law and grandchildren while her son, a soldier, was posted to Afghanistan. During a routine mammogram in 2013, she had a biopsy tested at the Royal Darwin Hospital and a pathologist, Professor John Skinner, told her the devastating news that she had breast cancer and her whole left breast would need to be removed "urgently".
"And it was performed rather quickly, within two weeks," Rachel said. Two weeks later, Rachel got a call from her surgeon. "And that's when he said to me: 'I've got good news and bad news to tell you: the good news is you don't have breast cancer. The bad news is you never did have breast cancer and we should never have taken your breast off."
Rachel has been compensated by the hospital. "Please ask questions, don't assume, don't trust," Rachel said. "It outraged the surgeon and it outraged me as time went by. To think the system wasn't there to ensure it was an accurate test. This is your body. You have a right to be absolutely confident that the testing that's being done within the health system at the moment is accurate."
Second Misdiagnosis Victim Has Not Been Compensated
Another patient, a 25-year-old breastfeeding mother in Alice Springs, was also diagnosed by Professor Skinner and had a mastectomy. The young mother, unlike Rachel, was not compensated and currently refused to discuss details for legal reasons.
Doctor Who Misdiagnosed Patients Said He Regretted The Mistake
The now retired Professor Skinner declined an interview but said that the Royal Darwin Hospital was dysfunctional at the time he worked there and needed to change. He identified the error himself and said he deeply regretted the mistakes he made and was "embarrassed and upset" about the ordeal, which came at the end of his career.