Lindsay Holt acted for Mrs T, a woman in her early 60s, in a claim against County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust resulting from an avoidable hysterectomy and associated post-operative complications.
In October 2020, Mrs T contacted her GP with an episode of post-menopausal bleeding. She was referred under the 'two week wait' suspected cancer pathway to County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust.
Mrs T underwent diagnostic hysteroscopy in November 2020, which revealed no apparent sign of malignancy, but which was reported that excessive thickening of the endometrial tissue, known as uterine hyperplasia, was 'difficult to exclude' but fell short of making a diagnosis.
Mrs T was reviewed in clinic by a Consultant Obstetrician who erroneously informed her that she had atypical endometrial hyperplasia, a gynaecological condition that presents a significant risk of uterine cancer. Mrs T was advised by the Obstetrician that she should undergo a complete hysterectomy, to include removal of her ovaries, since one in two patients diagnosed with this condition already have cancer.
No other treatment options were offered and the Consultant booked her in for surgery the same day. The information provided during the appointment, together with the urgency of the Obstetrician's recommendations, led Mrs T to believe she already had cancer, and she agreed to surgery, as she was fearful and distressed by his advice.
Mrs T underwent a laparoscopic hysterectomy in December 2020. She had to attend hospital alone during the Covid-19 pandemic and was placed on a mixed ward which left her feeling vulnerable, particularly as she had a chronic underlying health condition. Following the surgery, Mrs T was in significant pain and relied on her husband to look after her. Her recovery was further complicated by a wound infection at the operation site.
Histopathology from the hysterectomy in late December 2020 reported as showing that there was no evidence of cancer cells present in the tissue that had been removed during the operation. The Trust reviewed the previous biopsy and noted that there was no evidence of atypical thickening of the womb lining and that Mrs T had been advised to undergo unnecessary surgery.
Two weeks after her surgery, Mrs T received a phone call from the hospital requesting her urgent attendance to see the Consultant. She was not provided with a reason for the appointment and feared the worst, that the cancer was more advanced than previously thought.
In January 2021, the Consultant met with Mrs T under the Trust's duty of candour. He informed her that he had misread the first histopathology report, she had never been at increased risk of cancer and that the hysterectomy procedure had been unnecessary. He acknowledged that Mrs T should have been offered alternative treatment such as an IUD (coil) which may well have resolved her symptoms.
Because of the unnecessary hysterectomy, Mrs T has experienced distress and anxiety as well as a range of unpleasant and uncomfortable side effects, including an exacerbation of symptoms associated with her underlying condition. Mrs T suffered avoidable scarring of the lower abdomen, psychological injury and sexual dysfunction.
A Letter of Claim was sent to the defendant Trust in June 2021, which admitted liability in full shortly thereafter. Expert evidence was obtained from a Consultant Urogynaecologist who reported on the avoidable consequences of the unnecessary surgery.
The claim settled out of court for £47,000, to reflect the pain and suffering experienced by Mrs T and the expenses incurred, together with the care required during her recovery.
Following settlement, Mrs T said: “I would like to thank Lindsay and all at Fieldfisher for their support in dealing with my claim.
"While the damage done by unnecessary surgery cannot be undone, I did feel a sense of relief when the mistakes made were formally acknowledged and this helped me to draw a line under what had been a traumatic and stressful experience for me.”
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