Hospital's Hindsight: 20/20

Hospital removes man's cancerous prostate. Two months later, doctors say he didn't have cancer after all

In March, Touradj Ebrahimi underwent a biopsy of his prostate at San Francisco General Hospital. Some time after the procedure, his physician, Dr. Maurice Garcia, called Ebrahimi to notify him that the hospital's lab results showed he had prostate cancer. Two months later, Ebrahimi, a 69-year-old artist, underwent surgery during which Dr. Garcia removed the afflicted gland. The surgery left Ebrahimi impotent and incontinent, both life-altering conditions, for sure, but he could at least console himself with the peace of mind that comes with a disease-free body.

Or could he?

A few weeks after the surgery, a contrite Garcia called Ebrahimi with some bad news. There was a mixup of results at the laboratory that analyzed the biopsies and, well, Ebrahimi's prostate had been cancer-free all along. In July, Ebrahimi's lawyer, Cory Birnberg of Birnberg & Associates, filed claims against the city and county of San Francisco, which owns the hospital, and the University of California, which employs the doctors. The claim asks for unspecified damages for causing his client great pain and suffering, extreme emotional distress and loss of dignity by unnecessarily removing his prostate.

According to the city attorney's office, the claim was investigated and then denied because it was determined fault lay with UC's doctors. Birnberg said the denial was standard procedure, and he will file lawsuits against the city and UC probably within the next two weeks.

"If I had any advice for people diagnosed for prostate cancer," Birnberg says, "it would be to get a second opinion."

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