British expat breast op horror after translation error leads to ‘unnecessary’ double mastectomy in Spain

Teresa Tarry is suing for 600,000 euros after ‘eight years of hell’

LAST UPDATED: 2 Oct, 2015 @ 17:26

British woman breast operation horror

A BRITISH expat is suing a Spanish hospital after a translation mix up resulted in her having an ‘unnecessary’ double mastectomy.   

Teresa Tarry, 49, has gone through ‘eight years of hell’ after surgery for a benign lump in 2007.

Left with 55% incapacity following the operation, mother-of-two Tarry was led to believe she had a cancerous tumour in her right breast.  

However, weeks later she discovered the lump was, in fact, not cancerous and doctors at A Coruna’s Abente y Lago hospital had misinterpreted her medical records.

It emerged that while undergoing preventative treatment, a translation mix up had led doctors to believe that both Tarry’s mother and sister had suffered from breast cancer.

In reality, Tarry – who moved to Spain from Manchester in 2000 to escape a messy divorce – has no immediate family history of cancer and it was, therefore, unnecessary to remove her breasts.

“I have never gone through such a torrid time,” Tarry told the Olive Press.

“I came to Spain to start a new life for me and my sons. In reality it has been an eight year living hell.’

She added: “The operation has left me completely broken. My self-confidence is shattered, I can’t even touch myself, let alone let someone else touch me.”

Tarry first noticed a lump in her right breast in 2000, shortly after moving to Spain with her two sons, who were four and six at the time.

She had fled Britain for a ‘new life’ after divorcing her husband who had become abusive and dependant on alcohol.  

When she went to her doctor they told her there was nothing to worry about. By December 2006 the lump had increased to the size of a golf ball and Tarry again took herself to her Spanish doctor.

It was at this point, that a translation mix-up led to Tarry’s operation.

“At no point did I think the lump was benign,” she said. “If I had done I would have explored other procedures to remove the lump.

“I was convinced I was having the operation because I had cancer. At no point, did the surgeon indicate to me that I didn’t have cancer.”

She added: “Doctors must have confused medical records showing my mother and sister having ovary operations with a family history of cancer.

“I have no family history of cancer and so the preventative treatment was completely unfounded.”  

Tarry, who is half Spanish but grew up in England, spoke very little Spanish at the time, yet was not offered a translator.

She is now suing the hospital and  is set to have her case heard at trial next month in Santiago and is seeking €600,000 in compensation for negligent practice.

“Although my mother is Spanish, I always spoke to her in English and so my level was very low at the time,” she said.

“I was scared, I had this lump in my breast and I was in fear of my life.

“I trusted the surgeon’s advice without a second thought.”

“I  was encouraged by the surgeon that everything was going to be fine, that everything would be fine and I’d be back in the gym within three months of the op.”

She added: “In hindsight I could only half-understand the doctors and they could only half-understand me.”

The hospital, however, insisted that they ‘always provide translators when requested’.

“We cannot comment on this individual case,” a hospital spokesman told the Olive Press, last night.

Tarry claims she is now ‘living in limbo’, unable to return to the UK as she cannot work and will not be eligible for benefits for six months.

And yet, staying in Spain is also proving financially impossible after Spain’s social security department deemed her ‘unfit to work’ in her former role.

Forced to quit her job as a chamber maid, due to her reduced mobility, Tarry has been living off just €190 incapacity benefit plus savings since 2007.

If she is successful in her legal battle she hopes to return to the UK to undergo reconstructive breast surgery.

“I have already spoken to specialist in the UK,” she said. “I already have small implants which were put in at the time of the operation but they look awful.

“The scars are bad and there is no fat left under my breasts to support the implants.

“It will cost a fair bit for the surgery but hopefully it will give me my self confidence back.”

Gib Rocks - the magazine for Gibraltar

Subscribe: Olive Press news to your inbox