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Oral pathologist's error led to woman's death - 04 August 2008

A High Court Judge has found that a 43 year old mother of two would probably have survived if not for a series of errors by a Consultant Oral Pathologist at Kings’ College Hospital, London.

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4 August 2008

A High Court Judge has found that a 43 year old mother of two would probably have survived if not for a series of errors by a Consultant Oral Pathologist at Kings' College Hospital, London. Mrs Jane Manning was diagnosed with a rare form of tongue cancer in December 1993. She was treated with radiotherapy in 1994. In September 2001 a biopsy part of her tongue was diagnosed as cancerous. Despite radical surgery in February 2002, Mrs Manning died on 13th May 2002.

Her husband, Gary Manning, a dentist, brought a claim against the Trust responsible for Kings’ College Hospital, which was heard in October and November 2007. On Thursday 31st July 2008, Mr Justice Stadlen announced his decision. He found that Dr John Harrison had wrongly concluded that biopsies taken in September 1995 and December 1996 contained no evidence of persisting malignancy. The Judge decided that if Dr Harrison had informed the surgeons that he could not exclude cancer, further investigations would have been carried out which would have led to salvage surgery in 1996 or early 1997 and Mrs Manning would probably have survived. The Judge also rejected the Trust’s argument that the tumour found in 2001 was a new primary cancer rather than a recurrence of the earlier cancer. The Trust had admitted before the trial that Dr Harrison and another pathologist, Dr Johnson, failed to diagnose the cancer between February and September 2001.

Mr Manning was himself diagnosed with malignant melanoma in April 2006 and died on 18th January 2008. The Judge has not yet decided the amount of damages to be awarded.

Mr Nick Manning, Gary Manning’s brother, today said:

“It is so very sad that Gary did not live long enough to hear the Judge’s decision. Gary brought the claim because he was extremely concerned that senior pathologists at a teaching hospital like Kings could have failed to diagnose Jane’s recurrence of cancer over so many years. Jane suffered terribly as a result.”

The family’s solicitor, Mr Russell Levy of Leigh Day & Co added:

“As far as we are aware, the Trust has not carried out any audit of other cancer cases that Dr Harrison reported on alone. Of course, we hope that Mrs Manning’s case was an isolated one but without a re-evaluation of the pathology specimens how can anyone know? Had Mr Manning himself survived he would undoubtedly now also be calling on the Trust to confirm that their multi-disciplinary procedures will be fully investigated so that patients can be reassured that the mistakes which had such tragic consequences for his wife cannot be repeated.”

Press release date: 04 August 2008

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

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

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Clinical negligence

Who worked on this case

Russell Levy