Doctor’s Office Holiday Message Goes Horribly Wrong in U.K.

As in "incorrect cancer diagnosis" wrong

Checking phone
Two messages that could not be further apart in tone.
Getty Images

The holidays are often a time for various businesses to send out messages of holiday cheer. You’ve probably gotten a few over the last few weeks — some in the mail, some via email and some as text messages. Unfortunately for a group of people who’d been patients at a particular doctor’s office in the U.K., what was intended to be a message of holiday cheer turned out instead to be one of holiday dread.

As NPR reports, a number of patients who had been treated at Askern Medical Practice received a text message diagnosing them with “Aggressive lung cancer with metastases” — even if they had not been tested for it, or were being treated for it. Making matters worse, a patient who shared his experiences with NPR described receiving the text in question on Christmas Eve.

Shortly thereafter, the same number sent another text message, which clarified its predecessor. “Please accept our sincere apologies for the previous text message sent. This has been sent in error,” the message stated. “Our message to you should have read We wish you a very merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.”

The BBC spoke with several patients who had received similar messages from the office, all of whom expressed entirely understandable anger and frustration at the error. The doctor’s office hasn’t responded to the BBC’s requests for comment, and it isn’t entirely clear how two messages that are so far apart tonally could have ever been mistaken for one another. A cut-and-paste error? A bug in the system? We may never know.

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