A New York woman who underwent a double mastectomy after being told that she had breast cancer was later told that she had not, after all, had cancer. After having both breasts removed, 35-year-old Darrie Eason was told that due to an error in labeling at the laboratory, she had received another woman's diagnosis.
"I remember the words, 'You don't have breast cancer, you never did,'" Eason said.
According to an investigation by the state of New York, a former laboratory technician and CBLPath accidentally switched the labels on two different women's biopsies. This resulted in Eason being told that she had cancer in both breasts, and another woman being told that she had no cancer.
"I don't know who [the other woman was]," Eason said. "I don't know when they found out. I don't know if they know."
But the state concluded that the error was due to a single worker and was not systemic or the fault of the lab.
Nevertheless, Eason has filed a lawsuit against CBLPath lab. Her attorney says that they hope to find out if the accident that led to Eason's misdiagnosis really was a one-time error.
"Was that an isolated act by one individual who never before made a mistake?" said Steven Pegalis, Eason's lawyer. "I doubt it. It's possible. But we'll try to find out."
According to Dr. Robert Wachter, author of "Understanding Patient Safety," between 40,000 and 100,000 people in the United States die each year as a result of medical errors. "That would be the equivalent of a large jet crashing every single day in the United States," he said.
"You have to create technologies that anticipate that humans will blow it from time to time and catch the errors before they kill someone," Wachter said.
Eason's conclusion was slightly different: "Second opinions are good but second biopsies are better."