Girl has cancer. Girl goes into remission. Girl believes her cancer is back after Googling her symptoms. Girl tells doctors. Doctors ignore Girl. Girl dies from cancer.
Unfortunately, this is not an allegory. This actually happened to Bronte Doyne, a 19-year-old from England. She was suffering from fibrolamellar hepatocellular carcinoma, a rare liver cancer that only affects 200 people each year. She had first been hospitalized in 2011 when doctors suspected appendicitis. Unfortunately, that was not the only time they were wrong. Bronte was eventually diagnosed with cancer, and was told that her chances of survival were high following surgical intervention.
As Bronte’s care went on, she began experiencing pain and discomfort. She Googled her symptoms and believed that her cancer had returned. Entries in her diary, which have now been published, recount how she believed her doctors were neglecting her and her concerns. The doctors were rude to her and discounted her symptoms.
While not everyone’s condition can easily be diagnosed via Google or WebMD, doctors cannot be permitted to simply cast aside patient concerns. The hospital Bronte was treated at admitted that they did not “listen with sufficient attention” to her concerns. Misdiagnosis can lead to significant problems and ultimately death.
When patients undergo treatment, they turn their lives over to their treating doctors and hospitals. The best advice that can be given to patients is to ask questions and do not give in if your concerns are not addressed. Medical errors continue to rise every year. Hopefully the tragic, unnecessary death of Bronte Doyne will shine a light on a problem that is completely preventable.