GP told to apologise to dead woman’s family

She failed in her duty of care, a tribunal has heard

A New Zealand GP has been told to apologise to the family of a patient who died from thyroid cancer after it was found she failed to refer the elderly woman for an ultrasound scan when she consulted the doctor about a lump in her neck.

When the doctor finally made the referral six months later in July 2016, she failed to prioritise it as urgent, and it was another five months before the patient had the scan, the Health and Disability Commissioner found.

A year after it was first called for, the ultrasound identified “a suspicious lesion”, which was later diagnosed as inoperable thyroid cancer.

In his decision, the Commissioner ruled that the GP had failed to provide services to the patient with reasonable care and skill, failed to convey appropriate urgency in the referral, failed to track the progress of the referral and failed to keep an eye on the lump the year before the woman died.