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Nova Scotia doctor disciplined in ‘death by 1,000 laxatives’ case


A woman who described her treatment at a rural Nova Scotia hospital as “death by a thousand laxatives” has been successful in her complaint against the lead doctor who mistook cancer for constipation.

Even though she survived her ordeal, Isabel Palmeter never lived to see the decision issued this month by the College of Physicians and Surgeons against Dr. Mark Kazimirski. Palmeter died in November after a second battle with cancer at the age of 86.

The college — the body that regulates doctors in the province —  reprimanded Kazimirski for failing to meet the expected standard of care for Palmeter after she was admitted to the Hants Community Hospital in the town of Windsor, N.S., on Jan. 31, 2015, complaining of intense abdominal pain.

Palmeter had gone to the hospital earlier in the day with similar symptoms and was prescribed a laxative by another doctor. Though her condition didn’t improve, Kazimirski prescribed enemas, IV fluids and more laxatives for constipation once Palmeter was in his care.

“Dr. Kazimirski failed to entertain a higher degree of suspicion for bowel obstruction in a previously healthy elderly woman with no results from ongoing treatment for constipation,” the college said in a disciplinary decision dated Aug. 3, calling the physician’s actions “inadequate.”

Kazimirski transferred Palmeter days later to the QEII Health Sciences Centre in Halifax as her condition deteriorated. 

By the time she arrived in an ambulance, doctors told her family she was about an hour from death, recalled her son. 

“The doctor [Kazimirski] made an assumption of what was wrong and then held to it until she was practically dead,” Dale Palmeter said in an interview.

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