Radiologist faulted for missed diagnosis, must apologize and undergo training

The New Zealand government is faulting a local radiologist who failed to recognize one 67-year-old patient's bowel cancer in CT scans, which eventually spread to his lungs and liver.

Health and Disability Commissioner Anthony Hill on Monday, Oct. 7, ordered the provider to apologize to the patient, undergo further training and audit similar such scans, the New Zealand Herald Reported. Experts said this case should serve as a wake up call to imaging professionals.

"We are seeing this far too often, where potential bowel cancer cases are not further investigated, leading to terminal outcomes,” Mary Bradley, a spokeswoman for Bowel Cancer New Zealand, told the newspaper. "This man's diagnosis must act as a warning to other health professionals to always investigate further.”

According to the Herald, the unnamed patient had a family history of such cancer and went to receive a cautionary colonography in September 2015. A first radiologist could not determine whether a mass in the individuals’ bowels was a tumor, while a second imaging expert deemed that it was likely just normal fecal residue. The patient was advised to return for another scan in five years.

However, the man fell ill two years later, and tests later revealed that he had terminal bowel cancer that had spread to other organs. After an investigation, Health and Disability Commissioner Anthony Hill determined that the doctor’s failure to correctly interpret those scans or investigate further constituted a “significant” departure from accepted care standards and breach of local health codes.

The patient’s family has lodged a formal complaint against the provider and hired an independent radiologist to better understand what went wrong. The Herald reports that New Zealand has had ongoing problems with missed or delayed cancer diagnoses, with providers paying more than $15 million to settle similar such claims.

You can read the entire report from the New Zealand Herald below.