Personal Views

I lost my breast but is anyone to blame?

BMJ 1998; 316 doi: (Published 31 January 1998) Cite this as: BMJ 1998;316:400
  1. Jacky Reed, clinical safety manager
  1. Fisons plc

    I often wonder why people cannot accept the risks in life. Please don't get me wrong; I do believe that medical negligence should be exposed and punished. It's just that I also feel that, all too often, patients and their relatives look to blame someone (a doctor) or something (a drug) unjustifiably.

    Let me use my own recent medical history to illustrate my points: I started treatment with the contraceptive pill at 15 and remained on it until I was 30. I became pregnant a year later but unfortunately miscarried at 12 weeks. Four months later I discovered that I was pregnant again and at almost the same time found a small lump in my breast. I told my general practitioner of both conditions, was booked in for routine antenatal care for the former, and was told that the latter was almost certainly a benign fibroadenoma.

    With the breast changes associated with pregnancy and breastfeeding I was unaware of the continued existence of the lump until my daughter was 7 months old. At that time I discovered that it had grown in size quite significantly and again visited my doctor. He still thought that it was a benign fibroadenoma but referred me to a consultant surgeon who I saw a few weeks later. I was told a benign condition was the most likely diagnosis but that the lump should be removed. A fine needle biopsy was done and I was booked in for surgery. Before the lumpectomy I was told that the …

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