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  • Rural doctor banned after ignoring woman's cancer signs

    Author: AAP

A country doctor has been banned from working after wrongly diagnosing a woman with glandular fever and anxiety weeks before she died of liver cancer and heart disease.

The 71-year-old woman went to GP Kin Vui Tan in Lithgow, central western NSW, five times in early 2021, with "alarming" blood test results and rapidly declining health.

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Tan ignored signs of serious disease, including liver function levels more than 25 times higher than the normal range, according to a case brought by the Health Care Complaints Commission.

The woman ultimately went to the Lithgow emergency department and was flown to a Sydney hospital, where she died on March 8 that year.

Her death was caused by a combination of factors, including a heart attack, sepsis and likely cancer.

Tan, who is in his 60s, was on Tuesday found guilty of professional misconduct by the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal and disqualified for two years.

The tribunal was told the woman's blood results - which also showed a high white blood cell count and low iron - should have raised the suspicion of cancer and led to further urgent tests and scans.

"It appears that the practitioner's level of knowledge was so poor that he did not recognise the significance of these blood tests," the judgment said.

During a 2021 hearing, Tan said he did not order scans because the woman either did not have symptoms or her medical issues had resolved.

"This simplistic attitude indicated very poor judgment and a severe lack of knowledge," the tribunal said.

The woman took the blood tests on January 19, but Tan did not examine her or order scans when he reviewed the results during an appointment two days later.

He ignored the pathology lab's recommendation for a liver ultrasound and instead diagnosed the woman with glandular fever or another viral infection.

By mid-February the woman had extremely swollen ankles - a sign of liver disease - along with shortness of breath and a high pulse.

Tan prescribed medication to ease the swelling without investigating its cause and put the respiratory and cardiac symptoms down to anxiety.

A day before the woman, known as Patient A, went to hospital, Tan diagnosed pain as reflux when the woman was showing signs of coronary heart disease and angina.

The tribunal said Tan continued to justify his failure to consider serious diagnoses and questioned complaints made by the woman's family.

"It appears even after having time to reflect and the benefit of expert commentary, the practitioner continues to be unaware of how bad his treatment of Patient A was."

Tan is no longer registered and told the tribunal he has no plans to practice in Australia again.

The tribunal said it would have cancelled his registration if it remained current.


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