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Drs Let Down Cervical Cancer Victim, Commissioner Rules

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Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Ron Paterson
Ron Paterson

Wellington, July 29 NZPA - A Masterton woman who died from cervical cancer after a 10-month delay in being recommended a smear test was let down by the doctors who dealt with her, but they did not breach the code of conduct governing medical professionals, the Health and Disability Commissioner has ruled.

Anne Kitchenham, whose name was not released by the now former commissioner Ron Paterson, but revealed in today's Dominion Post, sought treatment for symptoms of post-coital bleeding from two general practitioners who shared her care between 2007 and 2008.

She died last August, shortly before her 42nd birthday.

Mr Paterson, who investigated a complaint by Ms Kitchenham's husband, Carl, found that the two general practitioners delayed referring her for a specialist opinion and failed to follow up on a recommendation that she return for a smear test two weeks after a doctor's visit in May 2007.

During a 10-month period from April 2007 Ms Kitchenham repeatedly saw the two GPs and a specialist about the bleeding. She was given antibiotics, scans and x-rays but not a smear test.

She eventually demanded one from her medical centre and was told to return in four months when her three-yearly smear test was due. By then her cancer was advanced.

Expert opinion provided to the inquiry suggested that the doctors' decision not to perform a smear test was not the main factor in the "eventual tragic outcome".

Mr Paterson found that neither Wairarapa District Health Board nor her GPs breached the code of health and disability rights, but that her specialist was in breach for failing to provide specific follow-up advice.

Mr Kitchenham, who is now raising the couple's two children alone, told the Dominion Post the commissioner's findings were "softened" to protect professional reputations.

He wants apologies and compensation and plans to take the matter to the Office of the Ombudsman.

Wairarapa DHB chief executive Tracey Adamson said the board stood by the skill and competence of the specialists it employed.

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