Colleagues of Dr Starkie, who is in her mid-fifties, had been aware that she was suffering from multiple sclerosis for some years. She had difficulty in walking and was sometimes unsteady.
But two bone cancer specialists, who depended on Dr Starkie's expertise, have said they had no cause to doubt the pathologist's eyesight.
The major difficulty was a 'personality issue . . . attested to by numerous people who were involved with her'.
Dr Starkie qualified as a doctor in 1963 at Birmingham University and has spent her professional life working in the city's hospitals.
Before becoming consultant pathologist at Selly Oak Hospital's bone tumour unit, which served the Royal Orthopaedic Hospital, she worked in pathology at Queen Elizabeth Hospital and in paediatrics at the Children's Hospital. She has been a member of the Royal College of Pathologists since 1979 and became a fellow two years ago.
Yesterday, Dr Starkie, who has been on sick leave since 25 May and has applied for early retirement, expressed her regrets for errors of diagnosis through South Birmingham Health Authority's public relations department. She said she very much regretted any unnecessary anxiety and discomfort caused to patients. 'I hope that the measures now being taken by South Birmingham Health Authority and the Acute Unit will result in the best possible patient care.'
But her detached house in Edgbaston, one of Birmingham's most affluent suburbs, was deserted and neighbours said they had not seen her for a few days.
Dr Starkie's husband, Dr Keith Harding, a consultant in physics and nuclear medicine at Dudley Road Hospital in the city, was not at work yesterday.