Woman scarred by medical mistake takes on malpractice reform

Associated Press
Monday, February 3, 2003

Linda McDougal relives the medical mistake every morning when she wakes up and sees the 31 inches of scarred incisions across her chest.

The 46-year-old accountant thought she had cancer when she agreed to the double mastectomy. Only later did she learn that the cancerous tissue tested had come from another woman, and her own breasts had been cancer-free. 

The discovery has left McDougal bewildered, angry, and on a mission to prevent the government from setting a price on her pain.
"It looks like the 'Night of the Living Dead,"' she says. "I'm alone in the morning, and that's when I shed most of my tears."

McDougal underwent the surgery after doctors told her in May that she had an aggressive form of cancer, based on a biopsy done after a spot showed up on her mammogram.

But McDougal, who chose the most radical of several treatment options, didn't have cancer. A lab mix-up had confused her tissue with another woman's.

McDougal, of Woodville, Wis., was bedridden for three months after the surgery. She and her husband, Jerry, say that knowing it was all for nothing only intensifies the lingering pain.

Linda McDougal has embraced a role as a spokeswoman against limitations to jury awards. Last week, she traveled to Washington to meet with the Center for Justice and Democracy, an activist group that opposes the president's plan.
For a copy of the complete article, contact CJ&D.

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