Lack of follow up leads to incurable lung cancer - Negligent Diagnosis

Case study: Len, 61 years old, Leicester

JMW helped a woman win £32000 compensation following negligent diagnosis of her husband's lung cancer.

A wife has accepted £32,000 compensation for negligent diagnosis on behalf of her late husband Len, who died of lung cancer. Len was a life-long cigar smoker. He also worked in a very dusty environment and from the age of 50 suffered from asthma and frequently recurring chest infections, particularly in the winter.

When he was 55 years old he was diagnosed with lung cancer (non-small cell) and underwent a thoracotomy (incision into the pleural space of the chest) and resection of the left upper lobe. At this point he gave up smoking. Len made a good recovery from his operation and was followed up by way of regular chest X- rays at the hospital.

When he was 58 years old he had a chest X ray which showed no active lung lesion and six months later he had a follow up x-ray which noted "... there has been no change and no active lung lesion demonstrated." By this stage Len's breathlessness was increasing.

When Len was 59 years old both of his 6 monthly chest x-rays were reported as unremarkable, as was the subsequent x-ray when he was 60 years old after which he was discharged from the hospital. 

Missed lesion

However, when the final x-ray was later reviewed, a lesion in the right lower lobe was clearly seen. This had been missed by the clinic doctor who went on to discharge Len, but was reported by the hospital as being suspicious of disease. However, this was never followed up. His increasing breathlessness and persistent cough were attributed to possible obstructive airways disease.

A year later Len was admitted to hospital with chest pain and the report of a routine chest X ray found two nodular lesions in the right lung.

A CT scan and biopsy confirmed the diagnosis of adenocarcinoma. Len underwent 3 courses of chemotherapy followed by a right thoracotomy and bisegmentectomy (resection of the liver). However, following the surgery he went into respiratory arrest and passed away.

How we helped

JMW Solicitors felt that there was clear radiological evidence of increasing density in the right lung on the chest X rays taken when Len was 58 years old and that the hospital was negligent in not noticing this  and arranging a CT scan. Had a CT scan been performed following this chest X ray it would have shown the presence of a lesion in the right upper lobe. A biopsy would have been taken followed by resection of the tumour. It is likely that Len would have had to undergo a course of chemotherapy but on the balance of probabilities he would not have died following surgery although his life expectancy would have been reasonably short at 5 years or thereabouts.

The hospital offered £32,000 compensation to settle the matter, which was accepted by Len’s wife.

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