Delay in diagnosing colon cancer

Davies and Partners acted in a medical negligence claim arising out of the death of Mr X, at age 45, The Claim was brought by Mrs X, on behalf of herself, their dependent children and Mr X’s estate.

Mr X suffered with ulcerative colitis for which he required a programme of regular surveillance colonoscopies. The Defendant Hospital Trust should have offered Mr X a surveillance colonoscopy in 2010 but failed to do so. The deceased’s health began to deteriorate substantially and in September a CT scan revealed a suspected bowel cancer. Mr X underwent a subtotal colectomy with end ileostomy and investigations confirmed that he was suffering from a locally advanced tumour with peritoneal seeding. Mr X underwent chemotherapy but developed progressive peritoneal disease and sadly died on 9 May 2013. 

To investigate the claim, we obtained expert evidence from a Consultant Gastroenterologist to consider the actions of the Defendant in implementing the surveillance programme and the steps that should have been taken. The expert confirmed there had been several failures in the care provided including the failure to arrange for Mr X to have a colonoscopy in 2010 and that had this been performed, the cancer would have been detected at that time. She also obtained a report from a Consultant Oncologist to consider what stage cancer would have been if detected in 2010 and what difference this would have made to Mr X’s treatment and outcome. The expert confirmed that on the balance of probabilities, the tumour would have been at T2 staging (invaded the muscle wall of the bowel) without metastatic disease; and confirmed that curative treatment with sub-total colectomy could have been carried out without the need for chemotherapy.  Following this, Mr X would have had a normal life expectancy.

Following service of a Letter of Claim, the Defendant fully admitted the claim. The Defendant offered to settle the claim in the sum of £250k. This offer was insufficient and so proceedings were issued. under the Law Reform (Miscellaneous) Provisions Act 1934 and the Fatal Accidents Act 1976, to deal with quantum.

We undertook detailed investigations in relation to the dependency claims to include obtaining expert evidence in relation to the loss of Mr X’s services as a Husband and a Father and analysis of his and Mrs X’s income. A report was also obtained from our Consultant Oncologist in relation to Mr X’s pain and suffering. After both parties had exchanged expert evidence, we then entered into negotiations with the Defendant and ultimately an amicable settlement was reached in the sum of £1m. Counsel advised on the apportionment of the settlement between the dependents and infant approval was obtained from the court.

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