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Woman bought coffin after cancer misdiagnosis

Jan Scott (70), was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer in the middle of the year only to find out recently that she does not have any cancer at all. Photo / Gregor Richardson
Jan Scott (70), was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer in the middle of the year only to find out recently that she does not have any cancer at all. Photo / Gregor Richardson

After saying goodbye to her grandchildren and planning her funeral, Jan Scott did not expect to see another Christmas.

She bought a coffin, designed a service sheet and made a final video for her family.

But last month the 70-year-old was told Dunedin Hospital's diagnosis of terminal lung cancer was a mistake.

While relieved, she is angry she was never referred to an oncologist and was denied further treatment.

In June, Scott was told she had as little as five months to live, and the cancer was too advanced for chemotherapy or radiotherapy.

Her doctor was a respiratory consultant.

She was told a chest scan revealed a 21mm tumour on her left lung, "shadows" on her other lung, and cancer in her lymph nodes.

She was referred to Otago Community Hospice for palliative care.

She flew her three grandchildren to Dunedin from Australia for a final visit.

Saying goodbye to her 8-year-old granddaughter was especially hard.

"It broke her little heart to leave me because she didn't think she'd ever see Nana again.

"That was so emotional."

A former smoker, she initially accepted the diagnosis, but it seemed odd that she had no pain.

With the help of a doctor at the hospice, she pushed for further diagnostic tests, and was referred to Christchurch for a PET scan in October.

It revealed she had no cancer. She was given the good news last month.

Scott said it felt as if her doctor expected her to be happy and grateful.

"I would like an apology more than anything.

"I just want a bit of closure on the whole unfortunate case.

"All he actually said to me was: 'We do make mistakes'."

It felt like she had been "thrown to the wolves" when the hospital decided not to embark on further treatment when she was thought to have cancer.

A letter from the doctor minimised the impact of the mistake by saying she lived with the misdiagnosis for a few weeks, when in fact it was months, she said.

Southern District Health Board declined to discuss the case, but invited Scott to make direct contact with her concerns.Otago Daily Times

Topics:  cancer coffin funeral hospital


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