Husband settles claim for delay in diagnosis of Leukaemia which led to wife's death

Posted by Patricia Wakeford on

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In April 2012 Mrs P, a retired woman, went for a "well woman" check-up which included a blood test. The results identified a low platelet count, although she was not informed of this at the time. Mrs P was also seeing a consultant for a longstanding lung condition. She was prescribed medication, which was advised to be a short-term treatment.

Mrs P began to experience extreme fatigue and bruising and was informed that her blood test results were abnormal. The consultant thought that this could have been a side effect of the medication, which was then discontinued. Mrs P was told that she would be sent an appointment for a blood test the following week. Despite a number of chasing phone calls from Mrs P, the test was not carried out for a further two weeks.

She continued to suffer with bruising and she mentioned it to her beautician, who warned her that a family member of hers had suffered with this and had died of Leukaemia; this prompted Mrs P to contact her doctor.

She was informed a day after her blood test that the results were abnormal and she needed to go to hospital to the oncology ward immediately. She was subsequently diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukaemia (AML). She was told she would need immediate treatment including platelet transfusion and a drug called ATRA. There was a delay in starting the platelets and ATRA was not given.

On that same day, she suffered a severe headache and sickness and deteriorated. A CT scan confirmed that Mrs P had suffered a brain haemorrhage. She was transferred to another hospital for pressure relieving brain surgery.  Very sadly, she did not recover from the surgery and died a few hours later with her family beside her.

Mrs P's case suggested that the Leukaemia should have been diagnosed sooner. This would have enabled treatment that would have avoided the brain haemorrhage and allowed recovery. Mrs P's lung condition could have been adversely affected by the chemotherapy treatment if she had survived.

Following his wife's sudden death Mr P contacted Patricia Wakeford of BL Claims Solicitors as specialists in Clinical Negligence. Patricia has worked as a nurse and midwife in the NHS for over 20 years so was able to provide specialist advice on this type of claim.

Expert evidence was obtained from a haematologist and a physician to consider what should have happened and the likely events if Mrs P had survived the leukaemia and required chemotherapy. It was considered that the chemotherapy would have exacerbated Mrs P's pre-existing lung condition and affected her life expectancy; even if the delay in diagnosis had been avoided.

Mr P had paid inheritance tax (IHT) on life time gifts made before Mrs P died. Negotiations commenced and settlement was agreed, based on the delay in diagnosis and treatment, for the sum of £63,000. This allowed for some recoupment of the IHT. 

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About the Author

Patricia is a Senior Associate, in our Clinical Negligence team, and is also a qualified midwife with many years of experience working in the NHS.

Patricia Wakeford
Email Patricia
023 8085 7310

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