Author: Steve Robson
Date: February 19, 2013
Blunders: Professor Philip Lamey is accused of misdiagnosing 33 patients at Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast

A professor of dentistry misdiagnosed patients who had cancer – prescribing one with sugar-free chewing gum when she had a tumour in her jaw and another with iron supplements for skin cancer – a tribunal has heard.

Philip Lamey allegedly misdiagnosed seven people with mouth cancer – four of whom later died – at the School of Dentistry in Royal Victoria Hospital, Belfast.

In total 135 patients were recalled after doubts were raised about their biopsy results, a hearing of the General Dental Council (GDC) in London was told today.

Professor Lamey, who is being represented by lawyers at the hearing, faces 46 charges after concerns were raised about his diagnosis of 33 patients.

David Bradly, counsel for the GDC, said on one occasion the dentist’s blunders caused a patient to be rushed to hospital after a wrong diagnosis.

The patient was told she had temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMD) – chronic jaw pain – when she in fact had a tumour in her jawbone.

Mr Bradly said: ‘Professor Lamey gave a diagnosis of TMD and prescribed sugar-free chewing gum for treatment and said he would see her in three months.

‘She actually had a tumour in the mandible and was admitted to hospital. She had a squamous cell carcinoma – a type of skin cancer – and had radiotherapy following an operation.’

On another occasion he diagnosed an elderly patient as having a traumatic ulceration of the tongue.

He repeatedly prescribed iron supplements to the 78-year-old, but eventually again made a late diagnosis of squamous cell carcinoma.

Mr Brady added: ‘Professor Lamey failed to review the diagnosis of trauma.’

He also wrote in his notes that the patient declined a biopsy, when no biopsy was even offered to the pensioner.

In total 135 patients at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast had to be recalled after doubts were raised about their diagnosis by Professor Philip Lamey

While treating another patient, Professor Lamey diagnosed a traumatic mucocele in the upper lip, which can be a sign of a tumour on the salivary gland, but got a dental trainee to carry out the biopsy.

And the professor caused ‘unnecessary delay’ removing a patient’s mercury fillings and prescribing antibiotics when a patient actually had lesions spreading through her mouth.

Mr Bradly said: ‘Medications were not going to work because this lesion was a tumour.

‘This patient should have been referred for a biopsy. It was all an unnecessary delay.’

The hearing, expected to take 19 days, will focus on seven mouth cancer patients who were wrongly treated by Professor Lamey, among others.

The hearing in central London continues.

* This news story was resourced by the Oral Cancer Foundation, and vetted for appropriateness and accuracy.
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