I REFER to the letter “When diagnoses are wrong” (The Star, May 14).
A missed diagnosis of malignancy or a wrong diagnosis of malignancy where there is no malignancy is a big, tragic and traumatic problem to the individual and the family.
Where do we go from here?
The specialist concerned in this field whose diagnosis is in question has little or no contact with the patient. However, there are times when histopathologists do visit or see the patient before arriving at a conclusive diagnosis.
There are also times when a histopathologist, when faced with a difficult diagnosis, runs around to consult another histopathologist at another centre before coming to a firm conclusion. Doctors very often do not dispute one another’s diagnosis especially if they are colleagues or if one had been a student under the other. These are facts of life – live and let live. Nobody likes arguments and criticisms, let alone one pointing out another’s error or mistake.
I agree that we need an accurate diagnosis. We need to improve and update this field of medicine. We need to be monitored. However, the check or verification must be by an independent body (perhaps an overseas centre) which will not be able to identify the hospital or the name of the doctor sending the specimen.
The specimen, without a diagnosis but with relevant details of the patient, will be identified only by a number. Have every specimen from every hospital monitored just for one year and we will know our standards. This should be carried out regularly.
I was once admitted with sudden severe gastric bleeding. After a scope and biopsy, I had surgery for extensive cancer of my stomach. I had the whole of my stomach, part of my large intestine and my gall bladder removed.
When I was discharged, on my questioning, I was told that my condition was such that it would mean a further life expectancy of three to six months.
I had no radiotherapy and no chemotherapy. I had no follow-up treatment whatsoever. I registered for palliative treatment. All these were my decisions. One could imagine the turmoil in my mind.
It is now almost seven years since I had my surgery. Is it a miracle that I am still alive? Not that I do not believe in miracles, but in my experience this sort of thing doesn’t happen often.
During the first six months of this episode in my life, I lost a lot in more ways than one. I am not questioning the diagnosis or treatment. I am ever thankful to the doctors who treated me. I am happy.
But does not my present condition and the patients with history of similar miracles warrant a second look at the histopathology in the interest of medicine and science?