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Damages for delayed treatment of ectopic pregnancy

A young woman has received compensation after suffering delay in dignosis and treatment of an

Posted on 23 March 2009

Leigh Day & Co has been able to recover compensation for a young woman who, suffered a delay in diagnosis and treatment of her ectopic pregnancy, underwent the removal of her fallopian tube and will probably not be able to naturally conceive a child again.

Nicola Wainwright, a Partner in the Clinical Negligence Department of Leigh Day & Co, acted for the young woman in a clinical negligence claim for compensation against Mayday Hospital.

Our client was delighted when in April 2004 she discovered she was pregnant. However, shortly afterwards she started suffering abdominal pain and bleeding so attended the Accident & Emergency Department at Mayday Hospital. The A&E team were concerned that she had an ectopic pregnancy, when the pregnancy develops in the fallopian tube rather than the uterus. Ectopic pregnancies can cause severe pain and can be life threatening if they rupture. Despite this our client was treated as though she had suffered a miscarriage and so she underwent a procedure to evacuate the retained products of conception. The plan prior to this procedure was that the surgeon would go on to explore if there was any other cause for her symptoms but she did not do so. Instead, our client was discharged home having been told she had suffered a miscarriage.

However, six weeks later when our client was continuing to suffer symptoms she was found still to be pregnant and was finally correctly diagnosed with a chronic ectopic pregnancy. Approximately six weeks after she had first been in hospital she underwent further surgery. During this surgery the doctors removed her left fallopian tube. As a result of the removal of her tube our client was advised that she was unlikely to conceive naturally and would require IVF. This was devastating news.

Our client was concerned about the delay in diagnosing the ectopic pregnancy and the risk this caused to her life had the ectopic pregnancy ruptured. She felt that she had been badly treated by Mayday Hospital. She complained to them about her treatment, but all of her concerns were rejected by the hospital Trust. Even when she got the Healthcare Commission involved Mayday Hospital continued to be dismissive about what she had been through. Therefore, she consulted Leigh Day & Co to see if she could bring a claim in clinical negligence.

We obtained evidence from an independent expert who expressed the view that the care our client had received from Mayday Hospital had been negligent. He advised us that if she had received the proper care it would not have been necessary to remove her fallopian tube and she should have been able to conceive naturally without the use of IVF. This meant that our client’s worst fears about her treatment and the effect on her fertility were confirmed. It also meant that Leigh Day & Co could try to bring a clinical negligence claim on her behalf.
Initially, Mayday Hospital denied all liability and so it was necessary to issue Court proceedings against them. Eventually they accepted that their care had been poor, but continued to argue about the effect this had had on our client. We tried to settle the claim on a number of occasions, but were unable to agree with the solicitors for Mayday Hospital the amount of compensation our client should receive. However, it was finally possible to reach an agreement and our client accepted an amount of compensation in settlement of her claim, which was roughly 25% more than the amount Mayday Hospital had refused to pay only a year earlier. The compensation recovered is not only supposed to reflect the pain, suffering and the distress that our client experienced but will also enable her to fund the fertility treatment that our expert told her she is likely to need as a result of the hospital’s failures.

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