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Settlement secured on behalf of woman whose health concerns were ignored

Family secures six-figure sum of compensation after woman died from a sarcoma

Hospital corridor

7 October 2019

The family of a woman who died from a sarcoma, a rare form of cancer, has secured a six-figure settlement after a GP and St George’s Hospital admitted liability for failing to investigate her health concerns.

Ms X died on 9 March 2016 from uterine sarcoma, which is an uncommon cancer. Concerns regarding her health were originally raised in 2012 but her health queries were not pursued further by her GP or by St George’s Hospital in Tooting, London.

Ms X, had a long history of fibroids causing her uterus to become enlarged. On 29 March 2012, she attended her GP surgery for a review of her blood pressure and complained of hip pain. She was sent for an X-ray of her hips, which showed an abnormality in the lower abdomen which required further investigation, and there was a query as to whether this was a sarcoma.  This was not pursued by the GP.

Ms X then presented to her GP in July 2012, with a 2-3 day history of left hip pain. The GP noted the previous X-ray report and sent her for an abdominal X-ray which was performed on 13 July 2012, where a large pelvic mass was found. There were also raised cancer markers in her blood. 

On 17 July 2012, Ms X was seen by her GP, who has recorded a very raised pulse rate but did not think to investigate this further. 

Ms X had an MRI in late July 2012 which showed she had large fibroids, and a large mass which was different to the fibroids, and again a sarcoma was queried. The results were discussed at a multi-disciplinary meeting at St George’s Hospital, and it was felt that the mass was unlikely to be malignant. The cancer markers in her blood tests remained very high. On 4 September 2012 Ms X was informed that her tumour was benign, and it was arranged that she would have a hysterectomy at the end of October. 

Ms X was seen again by her GP on 24 October 2012, who once again recorded a very raised pulse rate. No further investigation into the raised pulse rate was made.  

Ms X was due to have her hysterectomy performed on 31 October 2012.  As part of her pre-operative assessment, an ECG was performed which showed atrial fibrillation, which is an abnormality of the heart rhythm which requires treatment.  The hysterectomy was postponed and a referral was made to the cardiologists.  

Ms X was seen by a cardiologist, on the 3 November 2012 and an ECG taken that day confirmed the diagnosis of atrial fibrillation. In his letter to the GP, the cardiologist noted he could find no evidence of any underlying cardiac disorder. Ms X was not prescribed the appropriate treatment for atrial fibrillation.  As a result, Ms X went on to develop a large clot in her left leg and had to undergo a below knee amputation on 16 November 2012. 

Despite the initial concerns surrounding Ms X’s abdominal mass, there were no further assessments, and in August 2015 she attended the A&E department at St George’s Hospital where she was found to have a prolapsed rotting fibroid.  A biopsy and CT scan confirmed the diagnosis of uterine sarcoma. Ms X’s Warfarin treatment was stopped in August 2015, in preparation for her hysterectomy on 25 September 2015 and she was put on a very low dose blood thinner which was not at a treatment level. 

On 18 September 2015, Ms X attended St George’s Hospital for her preoperative assessment by the anaesthetist. On arrival at the hospital she developed a painful swollen and numb right leg. She raised this with the anaesthetist, and her concerns were dismissed. Ms X went to A&E at St George’s Hospital that evening because of her leg symptoms, and was advised to return the following morning to see the vascular surgeons. When Ms X was seen, she explained that the leg was very painful, she couldn’t walk on it, and although she could feel the leg, she couldn’t feel the foot as much and she had to go up and down the stairs on her bottom. Her concerns were dismissed, and she was informed that her symptoms were due to the abdominal mass pressing on the blood vessels at the top of the leg. 

Her hysterectomy was performed on 25 September, and because she was being given an impossibly low dose of blood thinning medication, she had begun to develop clots again, this time in the remaining leg. As a result, she had her right leg amputated on 2 November 2015. 

Sadly, because the hysterectomy was delayed, Ms X had developed metastases from her uterine sarcoma and died on 9 March 2016. 

Liability was admitted by the GP and St George’s Hospital and a six-figure settlement has been settled. 

Olive Lewin, clinical negligence partner at Leigh Day, said: 

“Proceedings were issued before Ms X died. Three years following her death, liability was admitted by both the GP and St George’s Hospital after they failed to take action on a number of warning signs regarding her health. This was an incredibly complex case as there was a cardiovascular element alongside a rare cancer element.” 

The claim was continued on behalf of Ms X’s Estate and beneficiaries. 

Information was correct at time of publishing. See terms and conditions for further details.

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