Breast Cancer Test Result Blunder – Case Settles

We act for RB, in a claim arising out of the death of his wife, CB, from breast cancer, in April 2009. CB was just 44 when she died leaving RB and their young son, GB.

Over the summer of 2002, CB noticed a lump in her right breast.

Her GP referred her to Farnborough Hospital in Kent, the responsibility of South London Healthcare NHS Trust.

She was seen in the Breast Clinic and underwent an ultrasound scan of the right breast together with bilateral mammography.

Subsequently a Fine Needle Aspiration of the lump in the right breast was organised.

In October of 2002, the Pathology Department at the hospital reviewed the sample and reported it as ‘C1’ meaning inadequate/unsatisfactory for diagnosis.

In the November of 2002, CB was seen in the breast clinic for the results of the FNA.

Incredibly, the surgeon she saw advised that the cytology result had given CB the all clear.

He must have wrongly thought that ‘C1’ meant this.

He followed up the appointment by writing to CB’s GP advising that the FNA had come back normal and that he had reassured CB and discharged her from the clinic.

The proper procedure would have been for the FNA to have been re-taken or, more likely, for a core biopsy of the lump to have been taken and analysed.

Expert opinion showed that, not only would this have provided a diagnosis of cancer, but that it would have done so at a time when the disease would have been entirely curable through treatment.

Instead, CB continued about her daily life unaware that there was any problem until symptoms developed some 2 years later resulting in her being referred again and then diagnosed with terminal cancer in January 2005.

She lost her long and courageous fight against the disease in April 2009.

RB initially went to other solicitors who were not prepared to pursue the case on account of limitation issues.

He instructed us in July 2012. We issued protective proceedings in September 2012, in the High Court, and served them early last year.

The proceedings were met with a full admission of liability and causation by the Trust who also elected not to contest the case on limitation grounds.

Since then we have been quantifying the case and negotiating settlement this resulting in the settlement now reached.

Nick Fairweather, who had conduct of the case, commented as follows:-

“It is comparatively rare to see a mistake of this magnitude. It is fundamental that all those working in breast cancer care must know the basic classification of these crucial laboratory results.  It simply beggars belief that a mistake of this nature and quality was made with such appalling consequences for this young family.

Money can never even begin to address the heartache and profound loss that has been suffered in this case.

I am extremely pleased, however, that RB has fought on for his wife to get the acknowledgement that her care was substandard – something that she believed and that they discussed together before she died.

 I wish him and his son a happy future going forwards now.  It is has been an absolute privilege to represent them.”