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Couple alleges medical cover-up


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POSTED: Saturday, September 26, 2009

Areerat Teanglum had a double mastectomy for a breast cancer that she did not have, but that is not why she is suing.

She says it is because her doctors hid the mistake from her for 10 years.

“;When I found out that day that they didn't tell me, it was hard for me and my family,”; Teanglum said yesterday by phone from her Maui home. “;That's why I decided to sue, because it's a horrible thing to do.”;

She learned about the cover-up in 2005 when another doctor looked at her medical records and told her she never had breast cancer and that doctors did not need to remove her breasts.

Teanglum did have lymphoma and was treated successfully with chemotherapy for that cancer. But her doctors allegedly continued to tell her she was being treated for both cancers, even after a second opinion confirmed she did not have breast cancer.

Teanglum and her husband, Bundit, are suing Pan Pacific Pathologists, Maui Medical Group and others for an undisclosed amount.

Maui Circuit Judge Joel August ruled yesterday that Teanglum's case could go forward, and dismissed the defendants' argument for statute of limitations, which closes the window for such lawsuits after six years, said Teanglum's attorney, Mark Davis.

August ruled the doctor could not be protected by the statute of limitations because he failed to tell Teanglum about the mistake, Davis said.

“;This was no accident,”; Davis said. “;The person who caused it was then trying to obtain the benefits of her doctor not telling her about it.”;

Dr. Barry Shitamoto, the pathologist who allegedly misdiagnosed the breast cancer, did not return a call for comment. Neither did the attorney for Pan Pacific Pathologists.

Dr. Curtis C. Andrew, Teanglum's primary doctor, who worked with Maui Medical Group, is alleged to have hidden the mistake from her. He moved to the mainland, where he later died. His estate is named as a defendant in the suit.

William Mitchell, Maui Medical Group president and chief executive officer, said he could not comment on an ongoing malpractice suit.

Teanglum, a 54-year-old mother of three, hopes her lawsuit will discourage other doctors from withholding information from patients.

“;If they ever make a mistake, they have to admit it and tell the patient,”; she said. “;I wish they tell them the truth, straight ahead.”;

Not knowing the truth, Teanglum lived with the anxiety that her breast cancer would return, and gave up on reconstructive surgery.