Debilitating prostate cancer surgery performed on wrong Iowa patient, lawsuit says

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Debilitating prostate cancer surgery performed on wrong Iowa patient, lawsuit says

A central Iowa man underwent debilitating surgery for prostate cancer — only to learn he didn’t really have cancer, his lawsuit says.  The patient, Rickie Lee Huitt of Panora, sued the Iowa Clinic, whose pathologist admitted mixing up tissue sample slides from Huitt and another patient in January 2017. The pathologist, Joy Trueblood, incorrectly reported which man's prostate gland was cancerous, the lawsuit says.  Huitt’s urologist, Carl Meyer, read the pathologist’s erroneous report and told Huitt he had a serious case of prostate cancer, the lawsuit says. The urologist removed Huitt’s prostate in April 2017 during an operation at Iowa Methodist Medical Center.  Afterward, Huitt, 67, suffered incontinence and other serious side effects of the surgery, the lawsuit says. Another pathologist examined Huitt's prostate after it was removed and found no cancer, said Huitt's lawyer, Randy Shanks.  “It’s mind-boggling,” Shanks said. “It’s a terrible, sad thing.”  The Iowa Clinic’s chief executive officer, Ed Brown, said in an interview the large medical practice wants to resolve the lawsuit in mediation. Brown wouldn’t comment on details of the case, including what happened to the second patient, who actually had prostate cancer. That man's name and medical outcome have not been made public.  ► Support local journalism.Subscribe to the Des Moines Register.  Court records show Trueblood explained to lawyers how she believed the mix-up happened. The pathologist said a barcode scanner used to match test slides with patient records apparently read the bar code from the wrong patient’s form in a stack of papers, according to a transcript of her deposition. She said that led her to list the findings of cancer on the wrong patient's report.  Trueblood said in the deposition that the scanner glitch had happened a few previous times during the thousands of cases she'd handled over about 10 years, but she had caught the previous errors.  “Why didn’t you catch it this time?” Huitt’s lawyer asked her, according to the transcript.  “I don’t have any idea,” the pathologist replied.  Later in the deposition, Trueblood described the mix-up as “a horrible situation,” which she said was due to “human error.”  Huitt’s lawyer asked: “Dr. Trueblood, would you agree with me that your handling of Mr. Truitt’s case, it was careless? Would you agree with that?”  ► More: Fired Iowa Clinic urologists say patients are prevented from seeing them  “Yes,” she replied. She said she changed the way she handles pathology documents after the mix-up was discovered.   Trueblood declined to comment via Iowa Clinic spokeswoman Amy Hilmes. Hilmes said the medical practice's leaders couldn't comment any further because of patient confidentiality laws.   Huitt’s lawsuit against the Iowa Clinic and Trueblood was filed in Polk County District Court in 2017 and is tentatively scheduled to go to trial April 1. The suit says Huitt's urologist initially had a tissue sample of his prostate checked after a blood screening test suggested he may have cancer.  The Iowa Clinic is owned by about 140 physicians and includes many of the Des Moines area's medical specialists.   Brown, the Iowa Clinic’s leader, said Huitt's situation is unrelated to a lawsuit three urologists recently filed against the medical practice. The physicians contend they were unjustly fired in September 2018 and prevented from communicating with their patients.  Five other urologists have submitted resignations from the Iowa Clinic, which dominates that medical specialty in central Iowa. Huitt’s urologist, Meyer, is not one of the eight who were fired or quit as part of the business dispute.
A central Iowa man underwent debilitating surgery for prostate cancer — only to learn he didn’t really have cancer, his lawsuit says.

The patient, Rickie Lee Huitt of Panora, sued the Iowa Clinic, whose pathologist admitted mixing up tissue sample slides from Huitt and another patient in January 2017. The pathologist, Joy Trueblood, incorrectly reported which man's prostate gland was cancerous, the lawsuit says.

Huitt’s urologist, Carl Meyer, read the pathologist’s erroneous report and told Huitt he had a serious case of prostate cancer, the lawsuit says. The urologist removed Huitt’s prostate in April 2017 during an operation at Iowa Methodist Medical Center.

Afterward, Huitt, 67, suffered incontinence and other serious side effects of the surgery, the lawsuit says. Another pathologist examined Huitt's prostate after it was removed and found no cancer, said Huitt's lawyer, Randy Shanks.

“It’s mind-boggling,” Shanks said. “It’s a terrible, sad thing.”

The Iowa Clinic’s chief executive officer, Ed Brown, said in an interview the large medical practice wants to resolve the lawsuit in mediation. Brown wouldn’t comment on details of the case, including what happened to the second patient, who actually had prostate cancer. That man's name and medical outcome have not been made public.

► Support local journalism.Subscribe to the Des Moines Register.

Court records show Trueblood explained to lawyers how she believed the mix-up happened. The pathologist said a barcode scanner used to match test slides with patient records apparently read the bar code from the wrong patient’s form in a stack of papers, according to a transcript of her deposition. She said that led her to list the findings of cancer on the wrong patient's report.

Trueblood said in the deposition that the scanner glitch had happened a few previous times during the thousands of cases she'd handled over about 10 years, but she had caught the previous errors.

“Why didn’t you catch it this time?” Huitt’s lawyer asked her, according to the transcript.

“I don’t have any idea,” the pathologist replied.

Later in the deposition, Trueblood described the mix-up as “a horrible situation,” which she said was due to “human error.”

Huitt’s lawyer asked: “Dr. Trueblood, would you agree with me that your handling of Mr. Truitt’s case, it was careless? Would you agree with that?”

► More: Fired Iowa Clinic urologists say patients are prevented from seeing them

“Yes,” she replied. She said she changed the way she handles pathology documents after the mix-up was discovered.

Trueblood declined to comment via Iowa Clinic spokeswoman Amy Hilmes. Hilmes said the medical practice's leaders couldn't comment any further because of patient confidentiality laws.

Huitt’s lawsuit against the Iowa Clinic and Trueblood was filed in Polk County District Court in 2017 and is tentatively scheduled to go to trial April 1. The suit says Huitt's urologist initially had a tissue sample of his prostate checked after a blood screening test suggested he may have cancer.

The Iowa Clinic is owned by about 140 physicians and includes many of the Des Moines area's medical specialists.

Brown, the Iowa Clinic’s leader, said Huitt's situation is unrelated to a lawsuit three urologists recently filed against the medical practice. The physicians contend they were unjustly fired in September 2018 and prevented from communicating with their patients.

Five other urologists have submitted resignations from the Iowa Clinic, which dominates that medical specialty in central Iowa. Huitt’s urologist, Meyer, is not one of the eight who were fired or quit as part of the business dispute.


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