Taking some time to find a doctor you’re comfortable with can pay out in dividends. You want a healthcare practitioner who treats you the way you see fit. Ian Paterson, a breast cancer surgeon who intentionally misdiagnosed hundreds of people is an extreme example of how choosing the wrong doctor can come with consequences. (1) Paterson, 59, was convicted of 17 counts of wounding with intent and 3 counts of unlawful wounding early in 2017. The jury determined that Paterson performed “extensive, life-changing operations for no medically justifiable reason” (5). Even though this is an extreme case it is a reminder for everyone of the importance of being as informed as possible about your own health.
Ian Paterson “Played God with People’s Lives”
This breast surgeon was “an incredibly likable man,” said a patient of his. A trait of his, which would make him an unlikely suspect for the danger he put at least 10 patients through, over almost 20 years. (3)
The Charges Against Ian Paterson
Paterson was a British surgeon who looked at numerous patients for breast cancer and was touted for “curing” numerous people and “saving” unsuspecting women from tumors. However, he provided unnecessary surgeries and did many improperly, 10 of which he was convicted for in April 2017.
He called Patricia Welch’s fake breast cancer a “ticking time bomb,” operated on Carole Johnson six times, and told Leanne Joseph that removing precancerous cells would be a “small price to pay for her life.” But, these women suffered undue harm because of their unquestioning faith in one doctor. Former patient, Debbie Douglas, recalls getting “chemotherapy which [she] didn’t need,” because Paterson had “some kind of almost god complex where he tells you that he’s cured you.”(1)
Women like Joanne Lawson experienced “significant deformities due to these surgeries,” one mother can no longer breastfeed, while another had a mastectomy which had her looking like “she had been involved in a car crash.”(1), (2), (4)
Other women felt severe pain because of this man’s heinous crime. Rachel Butler bled for weeks after the operation.
A £9.5m Lawsuit
Now, more patients are coming forward with a class-action lawsuit towards him and the National Health Service (NHS). The NHS who are paying damages as his employer since 1998, were told by a former senior manager of Paterson’s that he was investigated after he “exposed [a] patient to a significant risk of harm.”(1) This warning wasn’t taken seriously by the NHS and has left them liable for many of his damages.
The people who came forward in criminal court and a few of the men and women who were failed are Patricia Welch, Carole Johnson, John Ingram, Marian Moran, Judith Conduit, Rosemary Platt, Leanne Joseph, Frances Perks, Joanne Lawson, Rachel Butler, and Debbie Douglas.
As for the lawsuit, there might be some compensation for his victims. 256 cases have been settled while almost £9.5m have been paid to victims by the NHS. Patterson was forced to sell his £1.25million eight-bedroom home likely paid for with unnecessary operations and faces a prison sentence in May 2017. Yet, nothing can replace what some of these victims once had.(1)
In October, 350 private patients who had unnecessary operations will seek compensation at the High Court, said Thompsons Solicitors’ Linda Millband. Pamela Jain, from the Crown Prosecution Service said: “Paterson breached the trust of his victims and we pay tribute to them for coming forward to give their evidence.” (6)
How Did This Happen?
Colleagues recognized something off about Paterson they described him as “arrogant,” “aggressive,” a “bully,” and “isolated,” not traits commonly associated with likability, and possible signs that they weren’t dealing with a good man and should have questioned his credibility. (3)
The NHS is also partly responsible, as a public organization built to protect the people, by offering “good healthcare” as their website outlines. It is a system which ensures the very best from doctors. The Express, a British news website, reports that “NHS chiefs and private health care providers were warned by worried staff over a number of years about the breast surgeon’s behavior.” They failed to react, and they didn’t investigate. Instead, women and men were lied to, operated on, and severely harmed. The NHS might have participated in “what could turn out to be one of Britain’s biggest medical cover-ups.”(1)
How to Ensure You’re Getting the Right Medical Attention
What Paterson did to his patients is obviously not typical, but it’s important to be properly informed about your health by someone you can trust. Spending a little time to find the right doctor will give you some comfort in the long-run. When it comes to your health, you have to be confident in the decisions you make which means listening to your doctors, your body, and all reliable sources of information.
1. Research your doctor
Make sure your doctor is certified. Check the internet for malpractice claims by searching their name and the name of their office. Even looking up simple internet reviews can tell you a lot.
2. Know your illness
Research and record all the symptoms you are experiencing, and look up illnesses they could be reflecting. If the doctor offers a diagnosis or proposes a treatment which is contrary to what you think, it’s okay to ask them to explain their reasoning. Discuss their response if it isn’t sufficient and see what they have to say about what you think. If the doctor isn’t giving you a good enough explanation, it is time to cross reference their recommendation with another doctor or holistic practitioner.
3. Cross Reference Recommendations
While the vast majority of doctors are not like Ian Paterson, doctors go to school and learn a specific set of skills. They aren’t necessarily educated in natural remedies or specialized in the specific illness you might be experiencing. Furthermore, they’re only human and make mistakes, getting a better explanation from another doctor could get you more confident in their diagnosis. If you are uncomfortable with their methodology, a holistic practitioner will likely give you different treatment options that you might be more comfortable with. At the end of the day, the goal is to get as much good information as possible to make the best decision.
4. Use Your Intuition
You spend your whole life in your body, so you know it best. If something feels wrong, or there are sudden changes to your health, and you think something is wrong, you’re probably right. Act on these feelings and use them as a foundation for further research to find out what’s going on.
Here’s a doctor’s take on how to find a doctor:
Always communicate with your doctors and be open to new information; if what they’re telling you doesn’t make sense find an explanation that does from someone who is reliable because, when dealing with your health and wellness, your life could literally depend on it.
Please consult a physician before beginning any treatment program or making any adjustment to your health care, diet, and/or lifestyle.
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1. Jeeves P. EVIL cancer doctor ‘could’ve wounded thousands’ with UNNECESSARY operations. Expresscouk. 2017. Available at: http://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/798034/Cancer-doctor-Ian-Paterson-facing-life-in-jail. Accessed May 10, 2017.
2. Jeeves P. Woman left ‘looking like a car crash victim after unnecessary mastectomy’, court hears. Expresscouk. 2017. Available at: http://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/775728/Marian-Moran-car-crash-victim-after-unnecessary-mastectomy-court-hears. Accessed May 10, 2017.
3. Perraudin F. Ian Paterson: the ‘likable’ breast surgeon who wounded his patients. the Guardian. 2017. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/apr/28/ian-paterson-the-likable-breast-surgeon-who-wounded-his-patients. Accessed May 10, 2017.
4. Ian Paterson case: Woman ‘unable to breastfeed after unnecessary surgery’ – BBC News. BBC News. 2017. Available at: http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-birmingham-39145471. Accessed May 10, 2017.