Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Falsified Mammography Reports

AP News reported that a mammography technologist in Perry, GA had falsified mammogram reports for nearly 1,300 women over an 18-month period.

From the article:
She [Rachael Rapraeger] told police she had personal issues that caused her to stop caring about her job, that she had fallen behind processing the piles of mammogram films that stacked up. So she went into the hospital's computer system, assumed the identities of physicians, and gave each patient a clear reading, an investigative report says. That allowed her to avoid the time-consuming paperwork required before the films are brought to a reading room for radiologists to examine, her lawyer Floyd Buford told the AP.

Her actions were uncovered in April 2010 after a patient who'd received a negative report had another mammogram three months later at another hospital that revealed she had breast cancer. As hospital staff began to investigate, it was determined that the doctor whose name was on the faulty report had not been at the hospital the day the report was filed. Rapraeger quickly confessed to her supervisor that she was responsible and was fired from her job about a week later, according to an investigator's report.

Rapraeger told police she knew what she was doing wasn't right, but that she didn't consider the consequences until she realized a patient with cancer had been told her scan was clear...
Sadly, ten women had cancers that weren't diagnosed because of her actions.  For example:
Sara Bailey also received a false-negative report. By the time it was discovered, her breast cancer progressed to the point that doctors had to remove her entire breast rather than just going in and removing a lump, she said.

The surgery was successful and the cancer hasn't returned, but Bailey carries a bitterness inside her that surfaces when she talks about her experience.
Rapraeger did plead guilty to 1 felony count and 10 misdemeanor counts, although some victims think her sentence was too light (6 months in a detention center, 10 years probation during which she is banned from working in health care,  and a $12,500 fine).

I feel terrible for the affected women.  We may never know exactly how much unnecessary suffering (and how many years of lost life) Rapraeger's actions cost them.

On a related note, there is currently a push by powerful political forces to limit routine mammography for American women on the grounds that it's not sufficiently cost-effective.  This includes the federal government's US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF).  I hope this case of criminal denial of potentially life-saving mammography services gives some of those advocates pause.

(AP News story via Ari Armstrong.)