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Doctor won’t be disciplined for unnecessary mastectomies

Dr. Barbara Heartwell is shown in an undated file photo.

The Canadian Press

Asurgeon from Windsor, Ont., who performed two unnecessary mastectomies won't be disciplined by the province's medical regulatory college.

Dr. Barbara Heartwell became the subject of several investigations after it was revealed she mistakenly removed the healthy breasts of two women at Hôtel-Dieu Grace Hospital.

The College of Physicians and Surgeons investigated Heartwell and decided in May, 2011, to caution her, but not refer her to the college's disciplinary committee.

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Laurie Johnston had a mastectomy performed by Heartwell, who admitted she misread the results of a needle biopsy that found Johnston did not have cancer, and she appealed the college's decision to another regulatory body.

The Health Professions Appeal and Review Board in May ordered the college to reconsider its decision since it did not appear that previous complaints against Heartwell were considered.

The college has now completed its reconsideration and has once again decided not to discipline Heartwell.

Outcomes of investigations against doctors in Ontario are not publicly released unless the case is referred to the discipline committee.

A provincial report into pathology errors largely cleared Heartwell, but uncovered "significant concerns" with pathologist Dr. Olive Williams's work.

Hôtel-Dieu Grace Hospital has restored full privileges to Heartwell. The hospital suspended Williams, and she has since resigned.

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