Grandmother dies in agony after terminal bladder cancer dismissed as constipation

14th January 2019

Investigation by Fletchers Solicitors finds Barts Health NHS Trust negligent by failing to investigate victim’s symptoms in a timely manner

A much-loved mother and grandmother suffered 12 months of unnecessary agony, despite repeat visits to her GP and several hospital stays, as doctors repeatedly missed that she had bladder cancer.

Diana Smith, 69, of Newham, London started visiting her GP with back pain and urine infections in Autumn 2013. She was diagnosed with constipation and received antibiotics.

In December 2013, Diana was admitted to Newham General Hospital for a suspected urinary tract infection, with the cancer remaining undiagnosed at this point.

Over Christmas, her condition deteriorated, and Diana regularly phoned her children crying in pain. Her pain continued and in June 2014 she moved into a care home where her family say she was “finally at peace after two years of agony and turmoil”.

At this point, Claire thought that her mum’s pain was under control, so she went on holiday with her children. While she was there, Diana called her in floods of tears because she was in so much pain again.

Claire flew home from her holiday early and Diana was admitted to hospital the same day in June 2014, undergoing a rigid cystoscopy just hours later. They were told that the procedure would take between an hour and an hour and a half, but it was eight hours later when Claire next saw her mum.

Claire said: “I’ll never forget the nurse’s face when I asked what had happened. I asked if my mum had died and she took me into a private room. They told me that they’d had no idea just how bad the problem was going to be, and the surgeon said he was shocked at the level of care my mum had received to date. 

“He told us that there was a large mass which had put pressure on her bladder but at that stage no one used the word cancer, so we still didn’t really know what was wrong.”

Diana stayed in hospital for eight weeks as a result of a bladder perforation that occurred at the time of the surgery.

In October 2014, she went to visit her sister in Great Yarmouth. Whilst there, she suffered a series of epileptic fits and was taken to the James Paget Hospital where she was diagnosed as having a toxic reaction to the painkillers.

While there, Diana had further tests and it was then that she was given the devastating diagnosis of terminal bladder cancer and given only six to 12 months to live.

She stayed in hospital until November 2014 before she was transferred to a care home close to her family. She remained there until she passed away in April 2015, just six months after her diagnosis.

Following her death, Diana’s children, Claire and Jefferson Smith contacted the UK’s leading medical negligence firm Fletchers Solicitors as they felt that Barts Health NHS Trust had failed to diagnose, refer and treat their mother in a reasonable timeframe, despite the repeated hospital attendances and GP visits.

Barts Health NHS Trust was found to be negligent by failing to investigate Diana’s symptoms in a timely manner and Diana’s family received a five figure pay-out.

The trust accepted its negligence in failing to diagnose Diana’s cancer and while it is uncertain whether her death could have been avoided, Barts Health NHS Trust agreed that the delay in diagnosis had shortened Diana’s life by up to 12 months.

Diana’s daughter, Claire, said: “We know that she still would have died if she’d been diagnosed sooner, but she’d have lived for longer and wouldn’t have been in severe pain for so long.

“My mum was never angry about it, she knew it was her time, but by the end she’d had enough of dealing with it all. My mum was such a placid and calm person and went through hell, she did her best in life for all of us and it shouldn’t have ended like this for her. I feel like I’ve lost my world.

“If they’d listened to us in the beginning, she would have lived for longer and wouldn’t have gone through everything she did. We’d have had more time to be able to do things together as a family but that was taken away from us.”

Lucia Parkinson, a senior solicitor at Fletchers who handled the case, commented: “As a result of the negligent delay in diagnosis, Diana sadly passed away and spent her last months in severe pain. These devastating final months for Diana have left a lifelong impact on her family who sadly clearly remember what their mother and grandmother endured. All of this could have been avoided if Diana’s medical issues had been taken seriously and investigated appropriately.”

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