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Military hospital under fire for failing to spot tumor

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Published : 2014-03-10 20:42
Updated : 2014-03-10 20:42

An enlisted soldier with cancer was found to have been left untreated for some seven months after a military doctor mistakenly judged him to be healthy when X-ray images revealed a tumor developing near his lungs, according to Army officials.

The sergeant, whose name was withheld, was diagnosed with stage-four mediastinal tumors on Feb. 27 after he was sent to a hospital three days earlier for coughing and difficulty breathing.

The Armed Force Medical Command said that the military doctor in question would be reprimanded for failing to check X-ray images.

“We will conduct an overhaul of the medical checkup system and get to the bottom of this case. Based on the result, we will draft measures to prevent recurrences of such a case,” the command said in a press release.

“His medical costs will be covered by the state. We will improve the health care management system, through which we can double-check diagnoses and track patients’ medical records.”

During a regular checkup last July, X-ray images showed a 9-centimeter tumor in an area between the sergeant’s lungs.

A radiology doctor detected the tumor and recorded it in his medical documentation. But another doctor in charge of family medicine did not notice the record of the tumor and evaluated the soldier as fit for active duty.

This case further worsened public distrust toward what critics call a “sloppy” military medical system. It particularly added to the concerns of parents who have sent their sons to the military for mandatory service for more than 21 months.

Observers argued that stricter standards equivalent to those of top-level civilian hospitals should be applied in recruiting military surgeons and handling soldiers’ medical records.

By Song Sang-ho (sshluck@heraldcorp.com)

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