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L.A. County settles with woman on removal of breasts

August 11, 2010 |  6:07 pm

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors this week approved a settlement of more than $222,000 with a woman whose breasts were removed at Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center even though she did not have breast cancer.

Ana Jimenez-Salgado underwent a biopsy in 2007 to check for breast cancer. Two independent pathologists, neither of who worked at County-USC, mistakenly concluded that she had cancer.

Based on that faulty diagnosis, County-USC physicians removed Jimenez-Salgado's breasts. She then underwent a procedure to reconstruct them.

County-USC pathologists later studied the breast tissue that was removed and concluded that Jimenez-Salgado did not have breast cancer. They diagnosed a harmless condition that had a similar appearance to cancerous cells.

Jimenez-Salgado filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against the non-county pathologists who made the wrong diagnosis and the county, whose doctors removed her breasts.

“The plaintiff contended that the [County-USC] staff were negligent in relying on the interpretation of the outside pathologists, and also, that the [County-USC] staff performed the breast reconstruction surgery negligently causing her to suffer a great deal of pain,” according to the county’s summary of the claim.

In a corrective action plan, county officials said there was a failure of County-USC to review the breast tissue samples that had been examined at a non-county facility, “resulting in an unnecessary procedure.”

The county now requires breast biopsy samples taken at other facilities to be reexamined at county hospitals. It also has stopped sending patients to outside facilities for certain types of biopsies.

The vote Tuesday to approve the settlement was 4 to 1, with Supervisor Gloria Molina opposed.

-- Rong-Gong Lin II