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Kaiser Permanente Patient Horror Story
Sun Valley, CA
HMO IGNORES CANCEROUS MOLE , DELAYS PATIENT REQUEST TO CHANGE DOCTORS, PATIENT DIES (as told by her husband, Montague Bancroft)
My wife was 63 years old and was being treated at her HMO for arthritis. This treatment involved her seeing her doctor once every six to eight weeks for cortisone shots (a steroidal anti inflammatory drug.) During this period of treatment she noticed a mole on her ankle. She brought this mole to her doctor's attention. Her doctor reassured her that it looked fine and she should not worry about it.
Initially Peggy trusted the doctor's judgement. However the mole changed shape and color. Peggy brought these changes to the attention of her doctor. The doctor gave the mole a cursory look and again reassured my wife that it was fine. On the next visit my wife once again pointed out changes in size and color. Again the doctor paid no more than lip service to my wife's concerns.
Worried and exasperated my wife requested a change of doctor. She filled out the necessary paperwork and waited, and waited, and waited. Six months later the HMO finally responded, permitting my wife to see another physician. The first time she saw the new doctor he examined the mole and immediately referred her to a dermatologist. The dermatologist took a biopsy and found that the "mole" was in fact a malignant melanoma.
Further tests were now ordered. Unfortunately it was determined that the cancer had metastasized. It was now too late to treat Peggy and she died one year later. What is particularly harrowing about my wife's experience is that she attempted to be a partner in her care, pointed out a potential problem, and yet was thwarted by the reluctance to refer her to a specialist and HMO beauracracy.