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Six figure settlement after GPs failed to spot respiratory disease

A fatal delay in diagnosis led to a woman’s avoidable death

Chest xray

1 June 2016

The family of a 38 year old woman has received a significant six figure sum of compensation when the fact that she was suffering from a respiratory disease was missed on a number of occasions.

The woman, known only as L, was represented by medical negligence lawyers at Leigh Day.

L died in hospital of bronchopneumonia, pulmonary hypertension and multiple organ failure after a delay in the diagnosis of her respiratory disease by GPs at her surgery.

L had visited her GP surgery throughout 2007 and 2008 with symptoms of respiratory distress which was attributed by doctors at the surgery to anxiety or asthma.  At no time was an alternative diagnosis considered.

L developed a persistent cough, and lost three stone in weight. She reported that she was tired all the time.

L’s employer contacted the GP surgery to express their concern over her deteriorating condition over the previously months, her inability to manage stairs, her difficulty in breathing, her weight loss and the fact that the medication she had been prescribed was not helping her.

Blood tests were ordered for L but despite these being recorded as abnormal the only action taken was to note that this should be discussed at L’s next appointment.

L eventually attended accident and emergency at North Middlesex Hospital. Three days later she had developed multiple organ failure from which she never recovered.

Medical negligence solicitor Despina Kavadas brought a claim against L’s GP surgery, arguing that if L’s symptoms had been properly investigated her death could have been avoided.

Rather than investigating L’s symptoms further her surgery failed to send her for a chest X-ray and follow-up appointment with the chest clinic.  

If these steps had been taken L’s diagnosis of hypersensitivity pneumonitis (HP) would have been made.

The commonest form of HP is known as bird-fancier’s lung.  L cared for her elderly mother who had a budgerigar and who lived with her.  Her son also had a pet budgerigar.

If her symptoms had been fully investigated her exposure to budgerigars would have been revealed, and her condition would have been cured by treatment with corticosteroids and the removal of the pet birds.

The case was settled without an admission of liability for a significant six-figure sum.

Despina said:

“L’s daughter and son have lost their mother in avoidable circumstances.  If the GP surgery that L attended on many occasions had thoroughly investigated the symptoms she was displaying her death could have been avoided.”

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