Wind­sor, Ont., hospi­tal prob­ing sec­ond ap­par­ent case of mis­taken mas­tec­tomy


A sec­ond case of a woman un­der­go­ing an un­nec­es­sary mas­tec­tomy in Wind­sor, Ont., has seen the doc­tor who per­formed both op­er­a­tions vol­un­tar­ily stop per­form­ing surg­eries pend­ing a hospi­tal in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

While Jan­ice La­porte said Wed­nes­day she hoped com­ing for­ward about her 2001 mas­tec­tomy or­deal would mean bet­ter checks and bal­ances in the health-care sys­tem, On­tario’s health min­is­ter said a sur­gi­cal check­list an­nounced last fall would have pre­vented the lat­est in­ci­dent.

La­porte came for­ward pub­licly af­ter hear­ing of an­other woman who learned she didn’t have can­cer only af­ter her breast was re­moved by the same sur­geon in Novem­ber 2009.

That case, in­volv­ing Lau­rie Johnston of Leam­ing­ton, Ont., gained pub­lic at­ten­tion last week af­ter the Ho­tel-Dieu Grace Hospi­tal in Wind­sor an­nounced it had started an in­ter­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion into what went wrong.

Dr. Bar­bara Heartwell has vol­un­tar­ily stopped per­form­ing surg­eries pend­ing the re­sults of the probe, the hospi­tal said late Tues­day.

Heartwell’s with­drawal from surgery is in “the best in­ter­est of our pa­tients,” said the hospi­tal’s in­terim chief of staff, Dr. Kevin Tracey, in a state­ment.

A pre-surgery safety check­list that is in the process of be­ing im­ple­mented provincewide would have made the dif­fer­ence in Johnston’s case, On­tario Health Min­is­ter Deb Matthews said Wed­nes­day.

“One of those items on the check­list be­fore the anes­thetic is given is a re­view of the biopsy,” Matthews said.

“Im­ple­men­ta­tion of that check­list would have pre­vented this ter­ri­ble er­ror.”

The check­list will be stan­dard prac­tice in op­er­at­ing rooms provincewide by April, Matthews said, though she could not say why that would take five months as the mea­sure was an­nounced in Septem­ber.

Heartwell ad­mits she mis­read the re­sults of a nee­dle biopsy that found Johnston did not have can­cer, said Dr. Art Kidd, who was the hospi­tal’s chief of staff at the time.

La­porte said from her home in Sar­nia, Ont., that her breast was re­moved in Septem­ber 2001 but that a week af­ter her surgery, she was told by Heartwell that she didn’t have can­cer.

It was very dis­turb­ing to hear Johnston’s story be­cause it was sim­i­lar to her own, she said.

“Then when I heard the Ho­tel Dieu hospi­tal of­fi­cials on TV say­ing that this was a hu­man er­ror and as far as they’re con­cerned in 28 years Dr. Heartwell has never made an­other mis­take, that’s when I said OK wait a minute here,” said La­porte.

She ques­tions how the hospi­tal didn’t know about her case. Calls to the hospi­tal for com­ment were not im­me­di­ately re­turned.

La­porte filed a law­suit over her case in 2002. She can’t dis­cuss the pro­ceed­ings be­cause of a con­fi­den­tial­ity clause but the court case has ended, she said.

How­ever in the state­ment of claim she filed La­porte al­leged Heartwell per­formed “dra­matic, dis­fig­ur­ing and in­va­sive surgery” on her without in­form­ing her the pathol­o­gists who re­viewed her tis­sue sam­ple were seek­ing an out­side opin­ion.

Heartwell’s state­ment of de­fence said La­porte was given a copy of the pathol­ogy re­port — which in­cluded the state­ment about an out­side opin­ion — and that La­porte chose to have a mas­tec­tomy “af­ter be­ing ex­plained all of the risks, ben­e­fits and pos­si­ble com­pli­ca­tions of the var­i­ous treat­ment op­tions.”

The suit was set­tled be­fore the al­le­ga­tions could be tested in court.

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