Breast cancer controversy continues

James McLeod
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Misdiagnosed patients fight Eastern Health for tissue samples

Ches Crosbie — File photo

A nasty fight is developing between the province’s largest health authority and nine women who mistakenly had their breasts removed because they were misdiagnosed with cancer, media reports say.

On Wednesday, Ches Crosbie, the lawyer representing the women, said Eastern Health is putting up roadblocks to prevent them from accessing justice.

Eastern Health CEO Vickie Kaminski, meanwhile, said Crosbie is trying to use the raw emotions of the breast cancer testing scandal to get his way.

“When logic isn’t there, you use emotional whips, and that’s a bit of what this is,” Kaminski told reporters.

After massive testing problems were discovered in the Eastern Health pathology lab between 1997 and 2005, the health authority sent hundreds of samples for re-testing on the mainland.

The flawed testing was related to ER/PR hormone receptors, which determine treatment options.

However, Crosbie said when the samples were examined at Mount Sinai Hospital in Ontario, pathologists determined some women had been misdiagnosed, and did not have cancer at all.

“We already know there was a misdiagnosis, but what we have to find out from our expert is, was there a negligent misdiagnosis, and until we know that, we don’t know whether we have a case,” Crosbie said.

Crosbie wants Eastern Health to send the original slides to Truro, N.S., to be examined by a pathologist he has hired to tell the women whether or not the misdiagnosis appears to be negligent.

Eastern Health is saying because the slides are unique and cannot be copied, they won’t risk sending them out and risk losing them.

“We can’t let it out of our possession and give it to somebody else,” she said.

“It’s the only slide we have, so we can’t send it out of our possession, but we’re more than happy to have anybody come and look at it.”

Crosbie said that having an independent expert come to Newfoundland to view the slides would cost 10 or 15 times more than having it sent out.

“We’re being asked to make a far more substantial investment to find out the answer — is there a claim? — than we would otherwise have to make, not knowing whether we will ever recover the investment,” he said.

Moreover, Crosbie said the Eastern Health policy doesn’t appear to be the standard among health care institutions. He said Eastern Health can’t give examples of other hospitals that refuse to send slides out, and they can’t point to any situations where slides have been lost.

“No one can point to any instance when that’s ever happened,” he said. “Slides are sent around this country in their thousands daily, and they don’t disappear.”

The Cameron Inquiry into the ER/PR testing scandal also dealt extensively with how Eastern Health disclosed the testing errors to patients and members of the public. There were allegations that the health authority tried to obfuscate and control the flow of information.

Crosbie said that their current situation smacks of the same controlling and stonewalling.

“My clients aren’t financially in a position to do what Eastern Health is saying they have to do to find out if they have a claim. So that leaves us in something of a quandary,” he said.

But Kaminski said Crosbie was trying to play a raw nerve, and that the current spat has nothing to do with the Cameron Inquiry.

“This has nothing to do with Cameron. There’s nothing in Cameron that says you should send slides out to experts to look at them,” she said. “That’s an easy, emotional line to use whenever you’re not getting what you want.”

Twitter: TelegramJames

Organizations: ER/PR, Mount Sinai Hospital

Geographic location: Ontario, Truro, Newfoundland

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Recent comments

  • Joseph McGrath
    February 23, 2012 - 19:23

    I feel so sorry for these women who underwent needless surgery.Nothing can now be done to repair the pain,emotional turmoil,loss of their body parts which was all for naught.I do really believe that if former premier Williams was still in the premier position this whole matter would be treated fairly and justly and resolved quite quickly.Indeed it appears the Crosbie's firm may have made huge fees from past cases but I don't know and never will.In fact I DO NOT CARE.Untill A a new legal approach is put in place we are forced to use the one that is there at present.even if we find it distastefull.For GOD'S sake I call on Eastern Health to not be wasting endless dollars on mouthy management people trying to deflect the real problem which is/was /may have been / medical error or to stop these women from knoowing the full truth.They are owed the full truth..So stop the blocking attempts and help them find the correct anwser.Surely Eastern Health wants these questions answered as well to ensure no further incidences like this ever occur again.Once again we see severe failure in political leadership and that is so sad.

  • Rediculous
    February 23, 2012 - 16:42

    Unfortunately this is not about a lawyer but rather a malpractice suite to which all hosp's have. Lawyers are needed. The standard rate 30%. This is about medical mistakes and E Health covering up as usual. If standard protocol in hosp's is to have 2 sets of films, E Health need 2 sets. Kaminsky and Health Minister need to stop making excuses and change the policy/ legislation now. Most hosp's put aside a percentsge of money for malpractice/ medical mistakes. E Health still in dark ages as with their mgmt or lack of mgmt, not to mention med mistakes. Most hosp's also have quality contols in place to get their number of medical mistakes down each yr. E Health are still covering up! This day and age. They couldn't run a popsicle stand if their lives depended on it. They're too busy pretending there are no medical mistakes while the doctors run the show/ system. Viki has to go! Her comments leave something to be desired on this important issue of malpractice.

  • Enid O'Brien
    February 23, 2012 - 13:12

    If Eastern Health sent them out previously it doesn't make sense that they can't send them out again.

  • Full Truth
    February 23, 2012 - 12:56

    There are many expert patholoists within Eastern Health, why not have one of them review the slides. Also, opinions among pathologists can vary especially when there are atypical cells involved. These samples were taken in 1999, and reviewed again in 2005. In the medical world 6 years is a long time, standards and protocols can change. Also, the pathologist who made this diagnosis may no longer be on staff there, as so many have come and gone. I feel for these women, but I do not believe that we the tax payers should have to foot the bill. Put the money back into the system where it is needed more.

  • PGS
    February 23, 2012 - 12:20

    While I agree it appears to be a poor attitude on the part of Eastern Health not to ship the samples away for additional testing (even though they already did once when they were sent to Ontario), the idea of having their expert come to St. John's to examine them is not that big of a deal and certainly does not put undue financial burdon on the victims as Mr. Crosbie implies. The way these litigations normally work the claimants do not have to pay any money just receive their share if the lawsuit is successful. If those persons initiating lawsuits had to actually pay all of the laywers costs and expenses up front in expectation of a positiive settlement, the number of lawsuits would drop to a small fraction of what they currently are. Likely in this case Mr. Crosbie will do all of the legal work and cover all expenses of the action and then take lets say a 25% cut of the settlement. Assuming they settle for $250,000 each and there are eight claimants that will mean a total settlment od $2,000,000. Mr. Crosbie will take $500,000 for his fees and the rest distributed equally to the claimants ($187,500 each). To bring the Nova Scotia expert here to St. John's to examine the slides will cost approximately $500 airfare, $300 for rental car and gas, $500 for hotel and meals, and around 8 hours of travel time billed at lets say $250/hr or $2,000. The total extra cost is $3,300 - not much compared to a $2,000,000 settlement. The silde examination time would be the same here as in Halifax so that cost is not an additional cost. Further more this $3,300 will come from Mr. Crosbie's $500,000 not from the claimants $1,500,000. So at the end of the day Mr. Crosbie will have $496,700 for himself rather than $500,000 (less expenses and time that he would incur whevever the slides are examined) if he brings the expert here. How will he ever survive!! Just get on with it!!

  • Another Twist
    February 23, 2012 - 12:19

    Mr. Crosbie is again using victims emotions for his own enormous financial gain. During the last suit with misdiagnosed Cancer Victims, most victim families, who lost their mother or spouse, received less than $100,000 settlement for loss of a loved one. Mr. Crosbie's firm recieved MILLIONS.... thats right MILLIONS. ... and remember, Danny Williams agreed to the settlement without any court battle. Mr. Crosbie meerly had to write a few letters and jump on the media bandwagon, all for his own financial gain... there were NO Court Battles REQUIRED!! Now this case.... the expert witness is located in Nova Scotia not New Zealand, what will it cost Mr. Crosbie to fly him/her in for a day or two? The victims don't pay until Crosbie collects, so its Mr. Crosbie's selfishness here... an attempt to again use victims for every penny he can profit. But rest assured, when there is another settlement it will be the victims who pay. Go ahead Mr. Crosbie, publish a full page ad outlining what each victim received during the Breast Cancer Scandel VS what you received.... its a disgrace!!

    February 23, 2012 - 11:10

    I know for a fact slides, specimens and whatever else is required for a diagnosis is shipped out to other regions for second opinions all the time.....what is the difference? Sounds like they are hiding again!!

  • Paula Hanlon
    February 23, 2012 - 10:41

    Unfreakin Believable. I saw two of the women on the local news last night. My heart was breaking for them .... " Way to go Eastern Health - I have such good faith in your system. " .. Thanks God these women HAVE Mr. Crosbie on their side. I know first hand because I lost my sister to Breast Cancer and she was I truly believe - the reason their was the Cameron Inquiry"

  • The Old Dirt Road
    February 23, 2012 - 08:58

    You would believe that your tissue samples, a piece of you, would remain your property under the care of Eastern health's labratory. But No, Kamininski says they belong to her. But you can fly in a specialist from away to look at your sample here if you pay for it. I doubt there are any pathologists from away that will take a day or more out of their professional lives to come to Newfoundland to examine one or two samples. Send the sample by courier or nurse to an independent pathologist or send Kaminski packing back to Alberta. This is just plain stupid.