Holiday Text Hits Painful Snag

Patients mistakenly received notice that they had 'aggressive lung cancer'
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 29, 2022 6:55 PM CST
Holiday Text Hits Painful Snag
Stock photo   (Getty/Halfpoint)

The execution of an English medical office's plan to send a text bidding its patients to have happy holidays made that highly unlikely—at least for an hour or so. On Friday, Askern Medical Practice in Doncaster sent registered customers a text message informing them that they had an aggressive form of lung cancer "with metastases," the BBC reports. Sarah Hargreaves was waiting for the results of a medical test. When she got the text, Hargreaves said, she "felt sick to my teeth and broke down." The text told recipients that they were asked to fill out a DS1500 form, which allows people with a terminal disease to receive certain benefits.

About an hour later came a "never mind" text, which included an apology. The lung cancer diagnosis was "sent in error," it said. "Our message to you should have read: We wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year," the update said. Hargreaves and others among the practice's 8,000 patients tried to reach someone there by phone but had little luck. A handful went to the office, per the BBC. Another patient was mortified by the timing, two days before Christmas. He pointed out that someone who's actually been found to have lung cancer could've been whipsawed by the withdrawn diagnosis, followed by another correction. "It's not often I go to the doctors, then out of the blue, it's cancer," said Carl Chegwin. "I'm sat there scratching my head thinking, 'I do smoke, do they know something I don't?'" (Read more text message stories.)

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