A Not-So-Merry Christmas: Patients Receive Text From Hospital Saying They Have 'Aggressive Lung Cancer'

Prithvi Mishra
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Imagine waking up on Christmas morning to a shocking message from your doctor informing you that you have aggressive lung cancer that has spread.

That's exactly what happened to several patients at a medical practice in England when a mass text gone wrong delivered the devastating news.

A Horrible Mistake Before the Christmas

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According to the BBC, on December 23, a medical facility in Doncaster, England named Askern Medical Practice sent out a text message to its patients mistakenly informing them they had aggressive lung cancer with metastases. The message also requested them to fill out a form called DS1500, which is reportedly used by individuals with terminal illnesses to apply for benefits. The practice subsequently sent out a second text apologizing for the error.

The Follow-Up Text

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"This has been sent in error," the following text stated, "Our message to you should have read We wish you a very merry Christmas and a Happy New Year."

The Diagnosis Was Sent to 8,000 People

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The medical facility at the center of the mishap, which serves approximately 8,000 patients, has not made a public statement on the matter.

The practice's last public communication, a release from September, highlighted positive feedback received from patients regarding phone consultations.

One Patient Who Lost His Cool

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Carl Chegwin, whose mother was among the patients who received the erroneous text, expressed shock and outrage at the incident. "I was stunned and wondered if it was some kind of sick joke," Chegwin told the BBC.

People Were Understandably Worried

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One woman, who wishes to remain anonymous, described being "very worried" upon receiving the text, as some of her family members had recently undergone chest-related medical testing.

She also witnessed several other individuals in a state of panic upon reading the message. "I called the doctors but was placed on hold, as is often the case," the woman told the outlet. "So I went to the practice in person and saw six more people there, all panicked because they had received the same text."

Emotional Rollercoaster

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While enjoying the holiday movie The Santa Clause on Christmas Eve, the aforementioned Carl Chegwin received a text from his doctor's office in the United Kingdom diagnosing him with "aggressive lung cancer."

He was initially stunned and unable to fully process the information until he showed the message to his mother, who had also received the same text from a number associated with National Health Service England (NHS).

The Askern Medical Practice in Doncaster, where Chegwin and his mother are patients, is an NHS facility offering general practitioner services.

What if...?

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Chegwin later expressed concerns about the potential for confusion and mistrust arising from the error. "What if the message was meant for a specific patient, and they were first told it was a Christmas greeting, only to be informed later that it was actually intended for them?" Chegwin said.

"If an administrative error resulted in this mass text being sent out, I would have serious doubts about entrusting those individuals with even basic tasks like taking out the trash."

The National Health Service Is Still Quiet

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The National Health Service (NHS) of the United Kingdom, which is responsible for publicly funded healthcare, has not issued a statement on the matter.

On the same day that the erroneous texts were sent out, the NHS tweeted about the importance of self-care for those grieving during the holiday season, stating "Be kind to yourself if you are grieving."

Still No Word

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According to Chegwin, he has not received any additional communication from the medical practice since the text messages were sent on December 24.