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Misdiagnosis of Cancer?

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Sadly, we see a number of cases in which opportunities to diagnose a cancer have been missed with the result that the diagnosis is not made or is delayed, often with serious consequences for the patient. What about the situation in which a diagnosis of cancer is wrongly made? Lester Morrill dealt with such a case recently.

Our client, a lifelong smoker in her late sixties, presented at hospital with severe chest symptoms and was found on x-ray to have severe congestion of both lungs. Quite rightly, the consultant chest physician investigated for the possibility of lung cancer but unfortunately, so we were advised by independent experts, he rushed his fences and before he received the results of all the tests that he had requested, he told our client and her family that she had inoperable lung cancer and that her life expectancy was very short indeed.

Our client was transferred to a hospice but subsequently returned home, expecting soon to die.

When our client was admitted to hospital with chest symptoms, she was also complaining of pain in her neck, following a fall at home. This was properly investigated, a vertebral fracture was diagnosed and bed rest was recommended with active rehabilitation to follow. Because of the terminal cancer diagnosis, such active rehabilitation never occurred, and although the fracture healed itself, our client was left with some long term pain and disability, which we argued would have been avoided, or at least diminished, had she received the appropriate rehabilitation.

Our client remained at home for several months, outliving by some distance the life expectancy that had been given by her chest physician. Eventually her GP suspected the diagnosis and referred her for a second chest physician’s opinion whereupon the diagnosis was reversed. At the time of her admission to hospital she had merely been suffering from a severe chest infection and she was advised that she did not have and had never had lung cancer.

Our client and her family had suffered significant distress and disruption over several months, consequent upon the incorrect terminal diagnosis. In addition our client did not receive the treatment required for her unrelated neck injury.

Court proceedings were commenced on our client’s behalf. Although the Defendant NHS Trust never made any admissions, the claim was settled and our client received substantial damages.

This was a case in which the treating consultant, in a busy clinic and with a patient whose symptoms were strongly suggestive of lung cancer, failed to complete all the tests that were required and failed to take the diagnostic process through the hospital’s multi-disciplinary team meeting structure. In consequence of this he gave a premature and incorrect diagnosis, with serious and distressing consequences for our client and her family, which was not reversed for many months.

If you think you, or someone you know, may have suffered an injury as a result of negligent medical treatment and would like to speak with a member of the Lester Morrill clinical negligence team, please call on 0113 245 8549 or contact us by email at