Surgeon admits mastectomies without full tests

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Indy Lifestyle Online

William Thomson, a consultant surgeon, admitted to operating on five women without carrying out tests to confirm they had breast cancer.

William Thomson, a consultant surgeon, admitted to operating on five women without carrying out tests to confirm they had breast cancer.

Mr Thomson, who is appearing before the General Medical Council (GMC), is accused of removing a woman's breast unnecessarily after mistakenly diagnosing cancer. The case is likely to add to the public's increasing concern about the medical profession.

The consultant surgeon admitted yesterday to operating on the 44-year-old woman's breast without following normal procedures. He said he went ahead without confirming the diagnosis because she wanted something done immediately after being told she had a high chance of breast cancer.

Mr Thomson said he had warned the woman there was a chance his first diagnosis was wrong and gave her the option of coming back to the clinic for a biopsy. He said: "I should have said, 'Sorry, you have to come back on Monday', but I did it out of compassion."

Mr Thomson said he felt "awful" when he discovered his diagnosis had been incorrect. "I had injured the woman and I felt very responsible," he said.

He told the committee he had operated on five women without pre-op biopsies in the previous nine months. "My normal practice at the time was to follow triple assessment, even at the time of the previous cases," he said. "The other cases were very obvious large or ulcerated cancers."

The patient - known as Mrs A, from Lanarkshire, Scotland - had her breast removed in1997 after being referred by her GP when she found a lump in her breast. The lump was later found to be benign.

Mr Thomson, of Cambuslang, Glasgow, told the hearing that being a "surgeon is difficult ... You have to make important decisions and if you cannot make decisions you have no business being a surgeon. You try to be as safe as you can but no one is perfect," he said.

Mrs A was at the hearing yesterday but had to leave the room in tears when Mr Thomson gave evidence about dissecting her removed breast.

Mr Thomson, who is accused of serious professional misconduct, admits failing to undertake a biopsy and having insufficient medical information to perform the operation. However, he denies failing to obtain the patient's permission or making inappropriate comments to her afterwards.

When pathology tests revealed the operation had been unnecessary, Mr Thomson allegedly told the woman she was "lucky". Mrs A told the hearing earlier: "He more or less told me, 'You're lucky you don't have cancer. Get on with your life.' He said it wasn't like losing a child or going through a divorce."

Asked about the remarks, Mr Thomasreplied: "I think the way those remarks are being interpreted makes them look much worse than they were."