When surgeons play God the results are often less than praiseworthy. Such is the case with Lucinda Methuen Campbell, a 58 year old woman whose ovaries were removed without her consent. During a procedure to implant mesh for bowel problems, British surgeon Tony Dixon also removed the woman’s ovaries. He stated later that he thought he was doing her a favor and that her ovaries were in the way.
“I thought, you know, at your age, a woman of your age wouldn’t really need her ovaries,” Dixon reportedly told Campbell following surgery.
After surgery Campbell continued to experience extreme pain and a decline in mental health. A subsequent surgery failed to relieve her pain and suffering.
“My life is absolutely ruined,” she said. Campbell was later found dead in her apartment. The cause was ruled a suicide.
Dixon did his patient no favors. The functions of the ovaries involve much more than the production of eggs for reproduction. They are the hormone hub in the female body. The removal of a woman’s ovaries, called an oophorectomy, results in surgical menopause. This surgery is usually done to reduce the risk of breast and ovarian cancer, to treat fibroids and ovarian cysts, pain or in extreme cases for ovarian twisting. Removal of the ovaries can result in anxiety, depression, heart disease and premature death.
Although Lucinda Methuen Campbell was being treated for a bowel disease, she was subjected to an unnecessary procedure at the hands of a surgeon who thought he knew best. Was there a medical reason to remove her ovaries? It doesn’t appear so, at least according Dixon’s own statements as reported in the press.
Was her depression or despondency a result of this surgery? According to assistant coroner Aled Gruffydd the answer is yes. Campbell’s surgery was unsuccessful, worsened her pain and led to a decline in her mental health.
Had Campbell been diagnosed with gynecological problems such as uterine fibroids she may have had the opportunity to seek out alternative, non-surgical treatment such as uterine fibroid embolization (UFE). UFE is a non-surgical, minimally invasive procedure that obliterates blood vessels feeding tumors and diseased tissues such as fibroids. UFE has proven to be a successful alternative to hysterectomies which often involves the removal of one or both ovaries. Most important, UFE does not involve the removal of the uterus or ovaries.
Lucinda Methuen Campbell was not given the option to seek alternative treatment, or even to discover if she needed any kind of treatment for gynecological problems. Had she been given the option she may still be alive today.
If there is any lesson to take away from this tragic story it is to be informed and ask questions. There are new treatments that have replaced traditional surgical options. Ask questions, be informed and seek second and even third opinions.
Dr. Dixon has been suspended from treating patients at two hospitals in Bristol, England pending investigation by the UK’s National Health Service and the General Medical Council.