From Iceland — Cancer Society Misdiagnosis Scandal

Cancer Society Misdiagnosis Scandal

Published September 7, 2020

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A woman in her 50s has been diagnosed with incurable cancer, two years after being given the all clear at a cervical screening conducted by The Icelandic Cancer Society, Fréttablaðið and Vísir report.

In light of this shocking revelation, an audit is being carried out on 6,000 samples, taken between 2017 and 2019. Of these, 1,800 have already been re-examined, and 45 women have been told to return for further testing. The Cancer Society states that none of these results are as serious as the first case.

Samples traced back to one employee

It was also revealed that these samples were all taken by the same employee, who had recently returned from work after a long period of sick leave. Although the Cancer Society states that the employee showed no signs of ill health on his return to work, colleagues later showed concern for his mental health.

Former Minister of Health Álfheiður Ingadóttir says she is furious that blame is being placed on an individual, now-resigned employee, and that the society’s conduct is immoral. However, the Cancer Society denies that they laid the blame on any individuals, stating, “We have never said anything about the nature of the employee’s illness. However, it was inevitable to report that it was a human error, and not a systemic or technical one”. The managing director of the Cancer Society, Halla Þorvalsdóttir said that responsibility lies with the society itself and not with one employee.

Important data withheld

In another twist in the tale, it seems that Sjúkratyggingar Íslands (The Icelandic Public Health Department) has been withholding data from the Cancer Society which suggests that the research centre in which the samples were first analysed did not meet their criteria and was not operating to their standards. When confronted with this information, the Cancer Society contacted SÍ to arrange an emergency meeting, a request that was refused.

In a statement given to Vísir, Halla Þorvaldsdóttir said that the Society had no idea that SÍ had any issues with them. “These agreements are based on trust and on the authorities trusting the company for this project. In doing so, we must assume that they trust that we will meet the requirements. We know nothing else. So it would come as a great surprise to us, completely by surprise, if the reality turned out to be that SÍ or any other authorities rely on information that we do not meet the criteria set for the service.” The company intends to close the operations of the research centre immediately, if SÍ can submit documents that support the comments.

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