Failure to diagnose treatable cancer at Whipps Cross Hospital now becomes terminal | Fieldfisher
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Case Study

Failure to diagnose treatable cancer at Whipps Cross Hospital now becomes terminal

Debra was referred by her GP for an MRI scan of her head due to a history of tinnitus and right sided-hearing loss. She underwent the scan on 9 March 2011 at Whipps Cross Hospital and was informed that the findings of the scan were normal. Debra continued to experience symptoms of tinnitus and right sided-hearing loss.

On 14 September 2012, Debra attended her GP complaining of headaches and blurred vision. She was referred for a brain MRI scan again, but before she received the appointment, her condition deteriorated. She attended Accident and Emergency at Moorfields Eye Hospital on 17 September 2012. A CT scan performed identified a 3cm mass in the right upper nasopharynx. After further investigations Debra was diagnosed with adenoidcarcinoma of the right sphenoid sinus.

By the time that the tumour was diagnosed in October 2012 it had invaded the skull base and Debra was informed that she had terminal cancer at the age of 45.

We argued that if the MRI scan had been carried out and interpreted properly on 9 March 2011, then the cancer would have been diagnosed at this stage. The cancer would have been smaller and treatable. Debra would have likely undergone surgery followed by radiotherapy and chemotherapy. She would have been cured and had a normal life with a normal life expectancy. Sadly, her life expectancy is now only a few years.

Debra has suffered severe complications of the tumour which she would have avoided if she had been diagnosed earlier, such as recurrent headaches and vertigo, diminished eye sight, involuntary contraction of the jaw, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and anxiety.

Following a Comprehensive Investigation Report carried out by Barts Health NHS Trust, the Director of Allied Health Professional, Nursing and Governance wrote to Debra apologising for the failure to identify the abnormality on the MRI scan and advised that the tumour would have been operable if identified earlier. 

As part of the Defendant's internal investigations they contacted Debra's treating surgeon who also confirmed that if the cancer had been diagnosed in March 2011 it would have been operable.

Despite these admissions, apologies and opinions, the Trust formally denied liability in the litigation. Paul McNeil was instructed by Debra and he issued Court Proceedings on her behalf on 16 March 2017. The Trust continued to defend the claim for nearly 18 months until 30 November 2018, when they finally admitted liability.

Settlement was reached at a mediation on 11 February 2019 in the sum of £700,000 for Debra.

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For further information about delayed cancer diagnosis claims and clinical negligence claims, please call Paul McNeil on 03304606804 or email


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