A woman has won a medical negligence claim against a UK doctor after he failed to diagnose her with bowel cancer, resulting in the disease becoming terminal.
Mother-of-three Emma Cook originally visited a GP with intermittent stomach pains and was told she had a urinary tract infection. The doctor gave her antibiotics to cure the condition.
However, she quickly developed vomiting, diarrhoea and a fever, so her GP referred her to the accident and emergency department of Stoke Mandeville Hospital in Buckinghamshire.
According to the Bucks Herald newspaper, consultant surgeon James Tweedie believed her symptoms could be due to an ovarian cyst, a urinary tract infection or appendicitis. He therefore sent her for an ultrasound scan.
The procedure eliminated the first two conditions, but a large mass in or around the appendix was identified. As such, Ms Cook was scheduled to have her appendix removed.
Misdiagnosis and release from hospital
Ms Cook was later discharged from hospital without an appendectomy. Instead, Mr Tweedie – who had died before legal proceedings were brought against him – agreed to review her case in two weeks’ time.
He continued to treat her for a couple of months, but eventually wrote to her GP to say she was “systematically better”. Ms Cook later immigrated to Sydney, where a local GP diagnosed her with bowel cancer after her abdominal pain began to increase. She is now terminally ill and decided to pursue compensation for medical negligence.
“There’s no point in being bitter about what happened, but we wouldn’t have moved our young family to the other side of the world, thousands of miles away from our parents and friends, had Dr Tweedie correctly diagnosed me,” she explained.
Judges agreed the plaintiff should have been sent for a colonoscopy based on her symptoms and ultrasound, awarding her £125,000 (AU$268,000) from the doctor’s estate.
Medical negligence claims in NSW
While the majority of this case played out in British courts, people who suspect they are victims of medical negligence in NSW can also make a claim.
Misdiagnosis is just one legitimate reason why plaintiffs may want to seek compensation. Other instances where medical practitioners could be ruled to have breached their duty of care include a failure to inform patients of the risks of surgery or the incorrect prescription of medication.
Any compensation received can cover a range of costs, including medical expenses, lost wages and superannuation and non-economic losses, such as pain and suffering.