This case involved a delay on the part of the Royal United Hospital in Bath (RUH) in diagnosing lung cancer in one of our clients, Mrs Yvonne Shell, which had very tragic consequences for her.
Mrs Shell first attended the RUH in December 2002 following repeated chest infections. She had been a smoker for 20 years and there was a history of lung cancer in her family. Various tests were undertaken at the hospital including a CT scan of her right lung.
She was told at this time that she had a hamartoma (which is similar to a cyst). She was reassured that she did not have a malignant cancer as she herself suspected. She was promised an early follow-up appointment which sadly never materialised.
Due to her ongoing health problems, she was eventually seen again at RUH and during March 2004 following further tests and scans she was told that she did in fact have lung cancer. She was then referred to the Bristol Royal Infirmary and underwent surgery to remove the tumour.
Sadly, the tumour returned and the cancer progressed into her lymph nodes. She then had to undergo an extensive course of chemotherapy and radiotherapy at Bristol.
In subsequent proceedings bought by her at Court, RUH through their solicitors admitted that there had been a breach of duty ie. the CT scan taken during December 2002 had not been properly interpreted and a diagnosis of lung cancer should have been made by no later than March 2003. They disputed however causation. They maintained that a delay of 12 months in diagnosis did not make any difference to the eventual outcome for her. They maintained that she still had a greater than 50% chance of survival in March 2004 when the diagnosis was made.
Our own causation expert (a well known Oncologist) disagreed with their position. In simple terms, he felt that if a diagnosis had been made in March 2003 our client would have had a 66% chance of surviving 5 years as opposed to a 38% chance of surviving 5 years once a diagnosis had been made 12 months later. The tumour would have been much smaller and it would have been operable.
There was exchange of causation reports in this case and the causation experts then discussed the issues. The Hospital Trust then reconsidered their position and after lengthy negotiations put forward an offer to compensate our client which ran into tens of thousands of pounds. The case was settled just before Christmas 2005 but sadly our client passed away on the 11 January 2006.
She was a very brave and determined woman and we were pleased that the case was resolved in her favour before she died. It was disappointing however that the Hospital Trust did not concede liability much earlier which would have given our client more time to enjoy her damages with her family without the worry of this ongoing litigation.