The Penningtons Manches clinical negligence team has settled a claim for the widower of a cancer patient, Mrs H, who developed diarrhoea, abdominal pain and bloating following treatment for cervical cancer in 2009.
Between early 2010 and April 2011 Mrs H underwent a series of CT abdominal and pelvic scans and a sigmoidoscopy and continued to suffer abdominal pain and bloating. Her condition was diagnosed in March 2011 as radiation colitis and it was not until May 2011 that a review meeting noted a ‘large mass looks like colonic cancer’.
Mrs H was admitted to East Surrey Hospital as an emergency on 31 May 2011 with a bowel obstruction. She underwent laparotomy but by 5 June 2011 she was failing to make progress in recovery and had persistent vomiting associated with retraction of the stoma. She was taken back to theatre to undergo a re-laparotomy but died that day.
Having obtained and reviewed Mrs H's medical records and independent medical expert opinion, it was clear that Mrs H had two tumours, the first being a mass in the sigmoid colon and the second being a mass in the gastrohepatic space which was a form of GastroIntestinal Stromal Tumour (GIST).
The medical opinion obtained was critical of Mrs H's treatment in that both tumours were diagnosed late. However, the delay in diagnosis was not responsible for Mrs H's death, which unfortunately could not have been avoided. The delay in diagnosis of the GIST tumour did, however, have an impact upon Mrs H's symptoms and quality of life and, in particular, caused her unnecessary pain, suffering and loss of amenity in the period leading to her death. The delay also meant that she and her family had little time to come to terms with her diagnosis before her deterioration and death.
A claim was presented to the trust which responded with an admission of its breach of duty in failing to identify the GIST tumour earlier but denied that this had affected Mrs H at all. After negotiations, however, the claim was settled on the basis of the increased pain and suffering experienced by Mrs H prior to her death that would have been avoided with a prompt diagnosis and management. The claim was settled prior to the issue of court proceedings.
Emma McCheyne, senior associate in the clinical negligence team at Penningtons Manches LLP, said: “This was a sad case where our client’s wife had a torrid time prior to her death. It was clear that she had not been pro-actively investigated as she should have been and, while such care would not have saved her, it would have considerably reduced her suffering. Our client hopes that lessons will have been learned as a result of this case, such that this does not happen again.”