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Cancer Patient Forced To Make Terrible Decision After Ransomware Attack



Cancer Patient Forced To Make Terrible Decision After Ransomware Attack (


Anonymous Coward

on Friday July 05, 2024 @09:38PM

An anonymous reader writes: The latest figures suggest that around 1,500 medical procedures have been canceled across some of London’s biggest hospitals in the four weeks since Qilin’s ransomware attack hit pathology services provider Synnovis. But perhaps no single person was affected as severely as Johanna Groothuizen. Hanna – the name she goes by – is now missing her right breast after her skin-sparing mastectomy and immediate breast reconstruction surgery was swapped out for a simple mastectomy at the last minute. The 36-year-old research culture manager at King’s College London and former researcher in health sciences was diagnosed with HER2-positive breast cancer in late 2023. It’s an aggressive form known for spreading faster and is more commonly recurring, which necessitates urgent treatment. Hanna soon began a course of chemotherapy following her diagnosis until she was able to have what will hopefully be the first and only major procedure to remove the disease. Between then and the operation, which was scheduled for June 7 – four days after the ransomware attack was carried out – she had been told repeatedly that the planned procedure was a skin-sparing mastectomy which would have allowed surgeons to cosmetically reconstruct her right breast immediately after the operation.

How the ordeal actually unraveled, however, was an entirely different story. Hanna was given less than 24 hours by doctors to make the daunting decision to either accept a simple mastectomy or delay a life-changing procedure until Synnovis’s systems were back online. The decision was thrust upon her on the Thursday afternoon before her Friday surgery. This was after she was forced to chase the medical staff for updates about whether the procedure was going ahead at all. Hanna was told on the Tuesday of that week, the day after Qilin’s attack, that despite everything going on, the staff at St Thomas’ hospital in London were still planning to go ahead with the skin-sparing mastectomy as previously agreed. Per the updates Hanna requested on Thursday, it was strongly suggested that the operation was going to be canceled. The hospital deemed the reconstruction part of the procedure too risky because Synnovis was unable to support blood transfusions until its systems were back online.

The ransomware attack wasn’t easy on hospitals. The situation was so dire that blood reserves were running low just a week after the attack, prompting an urgent appeal for O-type blood donations. For Hanna, though, this meant she had to make the unimaginably difficult choice between the surgery she wanted, or the surgery that would give her the best chance at survival. The mother of two young children, aged four and two, felt like she had no other choice but to accept the simple mastectomy, leaving her with only one breast. […] At the time of writing, it’s now nearly five weeks since Qilin’s attack on Synnovis – a pathology services partnership between Synlab, Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, and King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust. The most recent updateatt provided by the NHS said disruption to services was still evident across the region, although some services such as outpatient appointments are returning to near-normal levels.

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