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Wrong Operation in Hospital Ends in Tragic Avoidable Death

14 August 2014

Slater and Gordon Clinical Negligence Lawyer James Bell successfully represented a deceased man in a six figure compensation settlement for damages incurred due to a clear breach of duty in the care provided to the deceased.

The late Mr K underwent the wrong surgical operation in an NHS hospital on 5th January 2011. He had undergone investigations at the Defendant NHS hospital for a number of months in relation to possible Crohn’s disease; however, biopsies taken by the Defendant NHS Trust on 7th November 2010 were reported as being cancerous.

It subsequently transpired that the biopsies taken in the procedure on 7th November 2010 were in fact mislabelled and as a result the late Mr K was diagnosed with suffering with cancer of the stomach when in fact, in reality he had cancer of the duodenum.

The negligent mislabelling led to Mr K undergoing an operation on 5th January 2011 when a substantial amount of his stomach (70%) was removed.

Following the operation the cancer was of course still located in the duodenum and not the stomach. The operation had been planned and performed by consultant surgeon Mr M on 5th January 2011.

There then followed a very bizarre internal debate at the Defendant hospital between Mr M and a large number of the pathologists at the same NHS Trust. The portion of stomach removed was checked for cancer and of course none could be found.

Mr M refused to accept that the operation could have been in any way a fault or not required and refused to accept that an error had occurred somewhere. He sought to transfer the blame to the pathology department and then involved the pathology department of another hospital for a second opinion. All of this took place without Mr K being advised as to what was going on.

Eventually seven pathologists all advised that the stomach examined by them did not contain any evidence of cancer and yet still Mr M attempted to find other explanations.

Eventually, Mr K was transferred to Bart’s NHS Trust but a highly and misleading letter was sent by Mr M to the Bart’s and London NHS Trust which failed to explain what had happened. This meant that they had effectively had to start from scratch and this led to a further delay in adequately treating Mr K.

Mr K was still completely ignorant of exactly what had happened to him until much further on, in fact not until he received the report from Mr M, an expert instructed by Lawyer James Bell as part of the medico-legal process, was he fully aware of what had happened in his case.

As a result of the misleading letter there was then further delay at Barts Hospital and the family also sought to attempt to obtain a diagnosis abroad or at least obtain a second opinion.

A further attempt to remove the cancer was attempted under the care of Barts Hospital in early 2012 but unfortunately because of the first operation, it was not possible for the surgeons to undertake the procedure they wished to (removal of the duodenum) and the Late Mr K was advised that his surgery was not successful. An attempt was made at a Whipples procedure but this was not successful and only the gallbladder was removed.

The patient was eventually referred to UCLH but sadly passed away due to septicaemia in February 2013.

To further complicate matters the doctors at the Defendant NHS Trust advised Mr K that chemotherapy for his duodenal cancer would be pointless and recommended that he should not undergo it as it would effectively be a waste of time and his quality of life would suffer. However, on referral to the UCLH that decision was questioned by the oncologist who advised that he should undergo chemotherapy.

In summary, Mr K’s final two years from January 2011 to February 2013 were a series of trips to the hospital, operations and medical procedures of one kind or another and also substantial pain and suffering for which he was in receipt of high dose pain killers.

As a result of Mr K’s illness his wife had to give up her employment and she became a full time carer for her husband.

Once instructed, Slater and Gordon's Clinical Negligence Lawyers obtained breach of duty evidence from a consultant gastroenterologist who concluded that there had been a clear breach of duty in the care provided to the deceased. Although there was a highly complex set of facts behind the case. Essentially he concluded that the wrong operation was performed in January 2011 and more disturbingly this was kept from the patient and his family for a considerable amount of time. Two of the treating doctors were reported to the GMC by Slater and Gordon Lawyers. Charges were not pursued by the GMC.

Following receipt of the gastroenterologist’s report a Professor of oncology was instructed to provide a report as to the survivability of duodenal cancer. Following receipt of this evidence a detailed Letter of Claim was formulated and forwarded to the Defendants in November 2012 whilst the patient was still alive.

Their response was received on 7th March 2013 shortly after Mr. K’s death, therein the Defendant Hospital Trust made a limited admission of medical negligence and in a following letter dated 19th March 2013 advised that they were investigating whether or not operable treatment was a possibility.

The Defendant at this stage put forward an offer in the amount of £50,000 compensation in full and final settlement of the medical negligence claim. This offer was considered wholly inadequate. Negotiations continued and the compensation claim finally settled in mid 2014 for a very substantial six figure sum.

James Bell is a Clinical & Medical Negligence Lawyer at Slater and Gordon in London.

Slater and Gordon Lawyers offer a free consultation for people injured by medical mistakes. Call freephone 0800 916 9049 24/7 or contact us online and we will call you.

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