Medical Negligence

Woman tragically passes away after negligent initial treatment led to an incurable spread of cancer

October 18, 2023
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The Incident

Our former client, who sadly passed away just 4 months after instructing us (whose husband / widower took over the claim on behalf of her Estate), was just 64 years old at the time of her death. She had her life tragically cut short – and the quality of her life drastically reduced – due to the negligent treatment of her mouth cancer.

Our former client was initially concerned with delays with her follow-up appointments, but it transpired that the primary management of her mouth cancer had not been in accordance with National Guidance, which led to the cancer spreading to other parts of her body and when the spread was identified, was incurable.

 

The Case

In October 2016, our former client was urgently referred for investigation of a suspicious legion on the floor of her tongue by her dental health practitioner. Following a biopsy, our former client was diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma, which is a form of skin cancer.

Following our former client’s diagnosis, she underwent laser surgery and was supposed to have a six-weekly review; however, this was not completed.

The follow up was not acted upon until October 2017, and after a couple of cancelled appointments, it was eventually only re-booked for April 2018.

A few months prior to the scheduled appointment, our former client attended her GP with a fast-growing lump on her lower neck, and an urgent referral was made.

Following tests, our former client was informed that the lump on her neck was likely to be a deposit from recurrent skin cancer. Our former client underwent radical chemotherapy, but unfortunately the cancer had spread to other parts of her body.

In September 2018, she started palliative radiotherapy and sadly passed away in June 2019.

We alleged that during the 6-month delay in making the follow up appointment, she developed a rapidly progressing cancer of the left neck node. It was alleged that if our former client had been seen earlier the lump in her neck would have been diagnosed, and treatment would have cured the disease.

Following receipt of our Letter of Claim, the Trust did not respond to the delay allegations but in fact admitted that the primary standard of treatment our former client received was negligent and not in accordance with National Guidance. They admitted she should have been offered the option of an elective neck dissection at the point of laser surgery and that her untimely death was as a direct consequence. The Trust also issued an apology to the family.

 

The Aftermath

This was an extremely sad case. Before she passed, our former client sadly had full awareness that her impending death was avoidable.

Towards the end of her life, she suffered chronic back pain, chronic constipation, weakness, urinary incontinence, confusion and became unable to walk. This unfortunately significantly impeded end-stage quality of life. She was absolutely devastated, embarrassed, and suffered an extreme loss of dignity and independence.

Our client also left behind her beloved husband, five adult children (two sons, three daughters) and two grandchildren. She used to make Sunday lunch for all the family each week. She made her husband promise he would not stop this weekly tradition, which he has now taken over, including cooking Christmas dinner.

 

The Case Outcome

The case settled for £155,000, which included the funeral expenses, a bereavement award, and a dependency claim.

Amy Kirk, Clinical Negligence Associate, Chartered Legal Executive and Team Leader commented:” This was such a heartbreaking claim to deal with; a lovely lady’s life being tragically cut short in completely avoidable circumstances. It was evident how much of a remarkable lady she was, and her death has left a huge void in many people’s lives, including her close family and her widower, our client. It was helpful that the Defendant Trust took the claim seriously and their indemnifiers, the NHS Resolution, made timely admissions and apologies, accepting that our client’s squamous cell carcinoma was not dealt with in accordance with National Guidance. I hope that grave lessons have been learned and preventative measures put in place to ensure this never happens to anybody else.”

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