Mastectomy Mistake: 'You Don't Have Cancer'

A woman is told she has breast cancer after a mix-up at the lab.

ByABC News via logo
October 4, 2007, 9:04 AM

Oct. 4, 2007 — -- Darrie Eason, a 35-year-old single mother from Long Island, N.Y., underwent a double mastectomy after she was told she had breast cancer. But after the surgery, she learned the unthinkable -- she never had cancer at all.

"I remember the words, 'You don't have breast cancer, you never did,'" Eason said today on "Good Morning America."

The news was stunning.

"I have a philosophy that you have to laugh to keep from crying, so I try to laugh as much as I can," Eason said.

A state report blames Eason's mix-up on a former technician at CBLPath lab who mislabeled her biopsy results. The report said the technician "cut corners."

But in a statement, CBLPath Medical Lab said, "The New York State Department of Health found no systemic problems and no deficiencies were cited against the lab."

Eason filed a lawsuit last month against the laboratory, seeking an undisclosed sum. Her attorney, Steven Pegalis, said they hope to learn whether or not the error was a system failure.

"Was that an isolated act by one individual who never before made a mistake?" Pegalis asked on "GMA. "I doubt it. It's possible. But we'll try to find out."

Eason isn't the first person to fall victim to a devastating, preventable medical mistake. Studies show that between 40,000 and 100,000 Americans die every year from improper medications to errors on the operating table.

Dr. Robert Wachter, author of "Understanding Patient Safety," said, "That would be the equivalent of a large jet crashing every single day in the United States."

Wachter said there have to be backup systems that anticipate human error. "You have to create technologies that anticipate that humans will blow it from time to time and catch the errors before they kill someone," Wachter said.

In the meantime, the woman whose biopsy slide was mixed up with Eason's did indeed have cancer, and was not told immediately.

"I don't know who," Eason said of the other woman. "I don't know when they found out. I don't know if they know."