Radiologist fined $750 allowed to keep his license after missing breast cancer in 24 patients

Author: Yuvi November 20, 2022


A New Hampshire radiologist who missed breast cancer diagnoses in 24 women across the state over a period of three years has been allowed to keep his medical license and pay a $750 fine despite his mistakes ruining people’s lives.

In at least one of the cases, Dr. Mark Guilfoyle who practiced as a radiologist at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center and who worked to provide radiology services at three small, rural hospitals in the state, saw the same woman on three occasions yet failed to notice anything amiss in her mammogram.

The complaints were made several years ago with Guilfoyle’s September 2019 settlement with the New Hampshire Board of Medicine only recently coming to light.

Guilfoyle’s sanctions prevent him from reading mammograms only in the state of New Hampshire, although he is still allowed to interpret X-rays and radiological images.

Dr. Mark Guilfoyle who practiced as a radiologist at three rural hospitals in New Hampshire missed breast cancer diagnoses in 24 cases over a three year period

The Boston Globe carried out its own investigation after a former patient of Guilfoyle’s came forward.

Patricia Eddy was told that her mammograms in 2015, 2016, and 2017 administered under Guilfoyle’s care were clear from disease but upon closer examination she was told breast cancer was present each and every time – only the radiologist had not spotted it.

Eddy, 66, underwent a double mastectomy after what she claims were the doctor’s mistakes. She is livid that he was still allowed to practice and that he was able to keep his license.

‘Personally, I don’t think he should be reading anything. You’ve got this doctor who was harming innocent patients with his ineptness, and they’re doing nothing about it.

Eddy alerted the New Hampshire Board of Medicine in August of 2017 and explained everything she had gone through, demanding to know why Guilfoyle was still practicing medicine.

Patricia Eddy was told that her mammograms in 2015, 2016, and 2017 administered under Guilfoyle's care were clear from disease but upon closer examination she was told breast cancer was present each and every time - only the radiologist had not spotted it

Patricia Eddy was told that her mammograms in 2015, 2016, and 2017 administered under Guilfoyle’s care were clear from disease but upon closer examination she was told breast cancer was present each and every time – only the radiologist had not spotted it

It took a further eight months before she received a reply that informed her the doctor had not received any kind of ‘formal disciplinary action’ despite her complaint.

It would be a further two years before the board reached its own settlement with Guilfoyle.

One of Guilfoyle’s superiors, Dr. Rebecca Zuurbier, who was director of breast imaging at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center, also became concerned over the doctor’s work.

Cheryl Jensen, 76, said Guilfoyle 'ruined the rest of my life' by misreading her mammograms.  It saw led to her breast cancer being given time to spread finally being diagnosed in early 2018 after which she had to undergo surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation

Cheryl Jensen, 76, said Guilfoyle ‘ruined the rest of my life’ by misreading her mammograms. It saw led to her breast cancer being given time to spread finally being diagnosed in early 2018 after which she had to undergo surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation

It led to a review of every single mammogram and breast ultrasound the radiologist had interpreted consisting of more than 5,500 patient visits.

It was at this time the two dozen women with missed breast cancers were found.

The patients affected were informed and given further testing and treatment if required.

‘There were 24 patients with known missed breast cancers,’ said Zuurbier.

The American Cancer Society say about one in eight cancers are missed in mammograms with such failed diagnoses a comment cause of malpractice claims against the radiologist.

Often small growths can be difficult to identify, not least because of the density and complexity of breast tissue.

‘I liken it to looking at a Jackson Pollock painting, with all the splashes and splotches and dots,’ Zuurbier explained. ‘If someone puts one new dot in, are you going to pick that up? I can go back later and find that new dot, although it’s sometimes difficult. But there are basic things you learn that you shouldn’t miss.

But she agrees, Guilfoyle ‘had a lot of big misses.’

‘Dartmouth Health acted immediately and decisively when it was determined that there was an alleged irregularity in one of his mammogram readings,’ Dartmouth spokeswoman Audra Burn added.

The concerns of Dartmouth were then passed along to the state’s medical board which investigated the ‘allegations of professional misconduct’ according to the board’s September 10, 2019, settlement agreement with the radiologist.

Dr.  Rebecca Zuurbier, director of breast imaging at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center, admits spotting masses can be tricky, but that Guilfoyle had a 'lot of big misses'

Dr. Rebecca Zuurbier, director of breast imaging at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center, admits spotting masses can be tricky, but that Guilfoyle had a ‘lot of big misses’

A ruling by the New Hampshire State Medical Board saw Guilfoyle given a $750 fine and 'reprimanded', but he was still able to keep his license

A ruling by the New Hampshire State Medical Board saw Guilfoyle given a $750 fine and ‘reprimanded’, but he was still able to keep his license

The board determined Guilfoyle pay a paltry fine and be ‘reprimanded’.

‘What I wanted right from the get-go, I wanted his license. I was advocating for myself but I was advocating for every other woman out there who was going to get a mammogram,’ Eddy told The Globe.

Eddy was one of two dozen patients who were a victim of Guilfoyle’s alleged failure to spot signs of breast cancer in their mammograms or breast ultrasounds.

In 2020, 11 of the women involved settled malpractice claims that alleged Guilfoyle’s negligence resulted in delayed diagnoses of their breast cancer.

The delay had potentially life-threatening repercussions. The group ultimately split the proceeds from a payout of $4.6 million, yet neither the alleged errors nor Guilfoyle’s $750 are mentioned on his physician’s profile on the website of the New Hampshire Board of Medicine.

In fact, New Hampshire’s medical board is one of the least transparent in the country with no easy way for patients to look into their physician’s past including whether they have been subjected to malpractice settlements, hospital disciplinary actions, or even criminal convictions.

Dr.  Mark Guilfoyle practiced as a radiologist at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, pictured, along with three other rural hospitals in the state of New Hampshire

Dr. Mark Guilfoyle practiced as a radiologist at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, pictured, along with three other rural hospitals in the state of New Hampshire

Guilfoyle’s lawyer, Jason Gregoire, only referred to the 2019 agreement Guilfoyle reached with the board, noting how it ‘speaks for itself’ adding that the doctor has not read a mammogram since he left Dartmouth.

Another woman, 76-year-old Cheryl Jensen said Guilfoyle ‘ruined the rest of my life’ by misreading her mammograms.

Dr.  Emily Baker, the current president of the New Hampshire medical board and a practicing obstetrician and gynecologist at Dartmouth Health, has said she was not authorized to speak for the agency.

Dr. Emily Baker, the current president of the New Hampshire medical board and a practicing obstetrician and gynecologist at Dartmouth Health, has said she was not authorized to speak for the agency.

This saw led to her breast cancer being given time to spread finally being diagnosed in early 2018 after which she had to undergo surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation.

‘For me, the main issue is the Medical Board. Its lack of action and transparency,’ Jensen said.

After hearing of Guilfoyle’s sanctions, she pleaded with the board to reopen the case and to revoke his license but the board replied only to say that they ‘consider that matter to have been fully investigated.’

‘He got a slap on the wrist, and I got a slap in the face from that board,’ Jensen told The Globe bluntly.

Both Eddy and Jensen were patients at Weeks Medical Center in Lancaster, New Hampshire.

Guilfoyle is still licensed to practice in eight states, including Idaho, Iowa, Kentucky, Vermont, and Washington but only in Georgia does it list the $4.6 million malpractice payment.

Dr. Emily Baker, the current president of the New Hampshire medical board and a practicing obstetrician and gynecologist at Dartmouth Health, said she was not authorized to speak for the agency.

20 November, 2022, 11:32 am

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