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Man Learns he has Lung Cancer After Daughter Reads his Discharge Notes

By Solicitor, Clinical Negligence

A man with terminal lung cancer was sent home from hospital and only discovered he had the disease when his daughter spotted the diagnosis in his discharge notes.

The 68-year-old was admitted three times to Leicester Royal Infirmary for tests and x-rays after he began suffering breathlessness and pains in his chest. But each time he was admitted, he was discharged and told there was nothing wrong with him.

It was only after he was discharged a third time, that his daughter revealed his diagnosis after reading the medical notes the hospital had sent his GP.

The daughter was then forced to break the devastating news to her father and the rest of the family, who initially believed there had been a mix-up with another patient’s notes.

When the Leicestershire man’s breathlessness deteriorated, he was readmitted to hospital where further tests confirmed the cancer had spread to his bones and brain. Tragically, he died just days later.

The appalling blunder was uncovered in a report by the Parliamentary and Health Service ombudsman, which revealed significant delays in the man’s diagnosis and a number of mistakes regarding his care following his re-admittance to hospital.

These included a decision - the hospital later said it regretted - to take him off his pain relief because doctors believed he was becoming too dependent upon it. This was despite the man telling his daughter he wished to commit suicide because he was in so much agony without the medication.

The “Dying Without Dignity” report, which investigated complaints about end of life care, added that the hospital had “failed every principle of established good practice in breaking bad news.”

The manner in which this man learned he had lung cancer was truly appalling. The ombudsman’s report clearly highlights how the delay in diagnosing his cancer was entirely avoidable.

Delays in diagnosing cancer can obviously have disastrous consequences. When opportunities for early diagnosis are missed, and the condition then develops to a more advanced stage, the delay will have potentially made a huge difference to any eventual outcome.

More than 41,000 people are diagnosed with lung cancer each year in the UK and it is crucial people look out for symptoms so they can be diagnosed and treated as early as possible. As with all cancer cases, the earlier people are diagnosed, the higher their chances for better palliative care.

This hospital needs to at the very least, provide its staff with additional training and acknowledge how and why this man’s end of life care was made so distressing for his family. Chiefly, why his pain relief was inappropriately stopped and why staff failed to address his family’s concerns about his pain and resulting state of mind.

Rabia Ibrahim is a medical negligence lawyer with Slater and Gordon Lawyers in London.

Slater and Gordon Lawyers help people who have suffered from delayed or wrong diagnosis of cancer due to Medical Negligence. For a free consultation call our Medical Negligence Solicitors on freephone 0800 916 9049 or contact us online.

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