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Radiologist Disciplined For Hiding Past Error

December 3, 2012
Written by: , Filed in: Breast Imaging, Medical Ethics
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A Missouri radiologist was publicly reprimanded last week and had his medical license placed on probation for throwing away mammogram film after he realized that he had missed an apparent abnormality.

The State Board of Registration for the Healing Arts did allow Bruce Hedgepeth, MD, of Springfield, Missouri, to continue to work as a radiologist, according to the Springfield News-Leader.

The newspaper reported that, according to board documents, Dr. Hedgepeth was looking at a mammogram in January 2011 for a patient identified as J. P. He noticed an enlarged lymph node under an arm, the documents said. He compared the 2011 mammogram to one done in 2009 and realized that the lymph node enlargement was visible on that film as well but that he had originally overlooked it, the documents said.

According to the documents:

In order to cover up his previous misdiagnosis, Licensee threw away the 2009 mammogram films that were in the hospital record.

The newspaper reported that Jill Pastula and her husband sued Dr. Hedgepeth in November 2011. The lawsuit said she was diagnosed with breast cancer in February 2011 and underwent a complete bilateral mastectomy. In that lawsuit, the Pastulas said they were unable to view mammogram film from 2009 because it was missing.

The lawsuit was dismissed in February 2012, but online records do not indicate whether the dismissal came because a settlement was reached or because of some other reason. Jill Pastula—whose initials, of course, are J. P.—declined to tell the newspaper why the lawsuit was dismissed or whether it was settled. Confidentiality agreements are common in case of a settlement.

Pastula said she underwent successful chemotherapy and radiation for the cancer. She did say she spoke with the medical board about the case. “It was extremely important to me that this not happen to anyone else,” she said.

The newspaper could not reach Dr. Hedgepeth for comment.

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Two Washington, DC, women have formed a nonprofit organization to bring mammography to underserved populations with ultraportable equipment. For details, see our Facebook page.

Related seminar: New Horizons in Breast Imaging

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