Lost Pathology Specimen Meant No Clear Diagnosis
Provisional damages are sometimes paid in personal injury cases where the nature of the injury caused is such that it may get worse over time or where the injury may cause further related health problems in the future. Because of this uncertainty, the court will allow provisional compensation to be paid but the injured party has the right to have the case reviewed and to claim further damages if their injuries get worse or another health problem develops on account of the earlier accident.
In one such case, a 63-year-old woman was awarded £2,000 in provisional damages after a pathology specimen, taken during an operation to remove a tumour, failed to reach the laboratory, possibly because it was inadequately labelled.
The woman had been admitted to hospital suffering from abdominal pain. Appendicitis was suspected although doctors treating her also considered the possibility that the pain was caused by an abdominal tumour.
An exploratory laporotomy did in fact reveal a large mass partially obstructing the woman’s bowel and so a right hemi-colectomy was performed. This is a common major operation for bowel cancer. The surgeon was of the view that the tumour was cancerous and a pathology specimen was sent to the laboratory to confirm whether this was the case. Unfortunately, the specimen never arrived at the laboratory and so it was not possible to confirm the diagnosis.
Because the doctors suspected that the tumour was malignant, the woman was given a whole body CT scan. Even though this didn’t show any abnormality, the woman was given a 24-week course of adjuvant chemotherapy, a treatment sometimes given to stop cancer returning after surgery.
The woman recovered well from her surgery and has since remained free of any symptoms of the illness. However, the lack of a clear diagnosis caused her severe anxiety and worry as to whether she had been given the right treatment.
The Hospital Trust accepted that the loss of the specimen was unacceptable and offered the sum of £2,000 as compensation. The settlement included a provision that the woman’s case could be re-opened, at a future date, should there be a deterioration in her health and it becomes clear that the lack of information which was available because of the loss of the pathology specimen prevented her receiving the correct treatment.
The contents of this article are intended for general information purposes only and shall not be deemed to be, or constitute legal advice. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this article.