The Health and Disability Commissioner has recommended that a doctor complete an audit of his surgeries, present the case to co-workers, and apologise to a patient, after he failed to follow up results relating to his operation.

The doctor removed a cancerous growth from the patient’s face. The removed cancer was sent away for testing. The results showed that the cancer was not removed completely.

The file indicating that the patient needed to be followed up with was filed away, and the patient was never informed of the result. The result was also not raised with the patient on future appointments he had at the medical centre.

Since the patient was not informed that the cancer was not removed completely, he was not referred on for further treatment. The cancer re-grew significantly and the patient had to undergo several rounds of radiation therapy.

The Commissioner held that the doctor breached two of the patient’s rights under the Code of Health and Disability Services Consumers' Rights:

  • The right to have services provided with reasonable care and skill; and
  • The right to be fully informed by being provided the information that a reasonable consumer, in that consumer's circumstances, would expect to receive.

It is important that all medical professionals have robust systems in place to ensure important results are shared with patients promptly, and not accidentally filed away. Failure to do so may result in serious health consequences for patients, and disciplinary actions against the practitioner responsible.

If there are concerns around how a medical professional has handled your test results, or if there has been a failure to inform you at all, it is wise to speak with a professional experienced in the area.

Leading law firms committed to helping clients cost-effectively will have a range of fixed-priced Initial Consultations to suit most people’s needs in quickly learning what their options are.  At Rainey Collins we have an experienced team who can answer your questions and put you on the right track.


Alan Knowsley