Among the flood of communications typical of these Christmas days, in which they greet a happy and prosperous New Year, the Askern Medical Practice (Doncaster, United Kingdom) sent a communication to hundreds of patients informing them that a terminal illness had been diagnosed. In actuality, the medical center’s objective was to send an automatic “Merry Christmas” message.
On December 23, the hospital sent a cancer notification to the majority of its 8,000 patients by mistake. The letter specifically cautioned the patient that he had “aggressive lung cancer with metastases” and recommended that he fill out a particular form for patients with this sort of sickness.
Consider going through your mail a few days before Christmas, reading warm Holiday greetings, and then receiving a message from your medical center informing you that you have “aggressive” cancer. Forget about entirely ruining someone’s holidays; this type of communication could result in a heart attack or, at the very least, a panic attack. Sending such a letter by mistake to one individual is a significant blunder, but sending it to thousands of patients is nothing short of a calamity.
As you might expect, reading the text was a terrifying experience for many recipients. Some had recently undergone various tests and were anticipating results, so learning that they had an aggressive cancer was devastating.
“I had just had a mole removed and was awaiting a result from a biopsy, and I had been to hospital as my smear test came back abnormal, so yes, I was very worried,” one woman told the BBC, adding that she “felt sick to my teeth and broke down.”
“It completely caught me off guard… “I rarely go to the doctor; then, out of nowhere, it’s cancer.” I’m sitting there scratching my head, thinking, “I do smoke, and do they know something I don’t?”
Another Askern client.”They only found out a few days before Christmas that they have terminal lung cancer.” They are unable to do so.
Panicked patients dialed Askern Medical Practice immediately after receiving the dreadful text, only to be put on hold, worsening their anxiety. Fortunately, the nightmare was short-lived, as patients received a second text message about an hour later informing them that the first had been a mistake.