Pathologist Dr Joy Trueblood (pictured) mixed up Rickie Lee Huitt’s prostate biopsy results with those of another patient in January 2017, leading to a prostate cancer diagnosis
An Iowa man says he underwent surgery to have his prostate removed to treat cancer – only to learn he never had the disease at all.
Rickie Lee Huitt, 67, of Panora, is now suing the Iowa Clinic and pathologist Dr Joy Trueblood, who admitted to mixing up his tissue sample slide with those of another patient in January 2017.
Filing a lawsuit in December, Huitt said the debilitating side effects – urinary incontinence and erectile dysfunction – have strained his relationship with his wife.
According to court records viewed by the Des Moines Register, Iowa Clinic urologist Dr Carl Meyer had performed a blood test on Huitt, then 65, which suggested he may have cancer.
Dr Meyer submitted a tissue sample of Huitt’s prostate to Dr Trueblood in the pathology department.
Based on her inaccurate report, Dr Meyer told Huitt he had prostate cancer and that if he didn’t have the gland removed, he had no more than five years left to live.
The American Cancer Society says prostate cancer is the most common cancer in US men aside from skin cancer.
In 2018, more than 164,600 men were diagnosed with prostate cancer and more than 29,400 died from the disease.
Prostate cancer typically grows slowly and, if detected early while it’s still confined to the prostate gland, there is a successful chance of treatment.
The most common surgery to treat prostate cancer is called a radical prostatectomy, which is when the entire prostate gland is removed along with some surrounding tissue.
On April 3, 2017, Dr Meyer removed Huitt’s prostate at Iowa Methodist Medical Center, also in Des Moines.
After the surgery, Huitt said he suffered from urinary incontinence and erectile dysfunction, according to the lawsuit.
He claimed that the serious side effects strained his relationship with his wife.
Huitt, 67, of Panora, was told he had to have his prostate removed or he would die. He underwent the surgery, which left him with serious side effects in April 2017. Pictured: Iowa Clinic where the misdiagnosis was made
Another pathologist examined the removed prostate and found no signs of cancer. Dr Trueblood revealed the misdiagnosis was due to a scanner glitch. Pictured: Urologist Dr Carl Meyer who removed Huitt’s tumor
On April 26, a pathologist at Iowa Methodist examined the prostate that had been removed and found no signs of cancer.
A sample of the prostate was then sent to the Mayo Clinic, where doctors confirmed there was no cancer.
‘It’s mind-boggling. It’s a terrible, sad thing,’ Huitt’s attorney, Randy Shanks, told the Register.
Dr Trueblood told Shanks in a July deposition that the mix-up occurred because of a scanner glitch, according to the Register.
She explained a barcode scanner matches slides to a patient’s records and that the scanner read the code wrong.
Dr Trueblood said the glitch has occurred before, but she’s caught the errors in the past.
She described the incident as a ‘horrible situation’ that was because of ‘human error.’
‘Why didn’t you catch [the glitch] this time?’ Shanks asked her, according to the Register.
‘I don’t have any idea,’ Dr Trueblood said.
The Iowa Clinic says the other patient, whose name has not been revealed, was informed of his cancer diagnosis and has since undergone proper treatment.
In a statement, the clinic’s Chief Marketing Officer Amy Hilmes said in part: ‘We implemented changes to make certain such a mistake would not happen again. The pathologist involved in this case continues to be troubled and saddened that her oversight meant a patient faced unnecessary surgery, exposure to anesthesia, and complications during recovery.’
Huitt’s lawsuit, which was filed in Polk County on December 10, is tentatively set for trial on April 1.
Last month, three urologists filed a separate lawsuit against the Iowa Clinic after claiming they were wrongfully fired in September 2018 and not allowed to see their patients.
According to the Register, five other urologists resigned from the Iowa Clinic over the matter but Huitt’s urologist, Dr Meyer, was not one of them.