Partner Stephanie Code and associate Elizabeth Maloney have successfully settled a claim for a client whose breast cancer was not properly investigated and who suffered serious complications from a double mastectomy she did not need to have.
Our client was diagnosed with a grade I invasive ductal carcinoma of the right breast in 2015 at the age of 43. Unfortunately, there was a failure to investigate adequately and then advise our client of the treatment options available to her.
Our client underwent a bilateral mastectomy with simultaneous implant-based reconstruction, from which she suffered severe complications including infections and delayed wound healing, particularly relating to the left healthy breast. Our client required multiple hospital admissions over the following 16 months, involving five further operations. The various procedures resulted in extensive, significant scarring which will require substantial reconstructive surgery, and she has persisting left-sided pain. Our client also suffered psychiatric injury, including a prolonged adjustment disorder with phobic anxiety and a relapse of pre-existing mental health problems.
An expert breast and oncoplastic surgeon was instructed to advise. His view was that the tumour should have been treated by a wide local excision and sentinel node biopsy, and that major surgery was not necessary.
The defendant hospital trust made a partial admission, admitting that our client should have been offered and advised to undergo a second look biopsy and that she should have been informed of other treatment options. However, it denied that a wide local excision was the appropriate treatment and stated that our client would have been at similar risk of complications compared to the treatment they asserted was appropriate.
Following the exchange of expert evidence, the claim was settled by negotiation prior to trial. The damages awarded reflect the pain and suffering our client endured, and make provision for reconstructive surgery in the future. The trust apologised for the failings in its care, and informed us that it will strive to learn from the case. Our client was very relieved that she is now able to move her life forward after her injuries and hopes that her claim will help to prevent similar issues happening to other women.
Stephanie Code, partner in the clinical negligence team at Penningtons Manches Cooper who advised on this case, commented: “When there is a failure to inform patients properly and advise of all treatment options, there can be devastating consequences - as demonstrated in this case. The damages award will assist in a number of ways and importantly enable our client to undergo reconstructive surgery, which will significantly improve her cosmetic outcome.”
Our private client team was also able to assist in this case by setting up a personal injury trust to ensure safe management of our client’s damages.