On 2 December 1998, Caroline, aged 9, attended her GP surgery complaining of loss of appetite, weight loss, difficulty sleeping, constipation and a distended stomach. She was seen by Dr Burton who diagnosed constipation and prescribed latulose solution.
Six days later, Caroline attended her GP again complaining of diarrhoea and passing blood. She was examined by Dr Appleby and he advised that Caroline should stop taking the latulose and instead prescribed oral rehydration powder.
Caroline attended Dr Appleby on 15 December and was complaining of feeling unwell with a distended tummy, which was hard to the touch. Dr Appleby advised that Caroline should be given plenty to drink.
A month later on 13 January 1999, Caroline attended Dr Appleby who found a hard mass in her stomach and referred her to hospital. Unfortunately, Caroline’s condition deteriorated and she died later that night.
Post mortem examination confirmed marked distension of the abdomen and revealed a large mass due to a high grade Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma.
We were instructed by Caroline's mother to pursue a GP negligence claim against Dr Appleby and Dr Burton.
Our expert medical evidence criticised the failure of Dr Appleby and Dr Burton to examine Caroline during December 1998 and refer her to hospital for investigations.
A paediatric oncology expert confirmed that it was likely that the tumour was palpable on 2 December 1998. Had treatment been given in early December 1998, there would have been 75% to 80% chance of a cure.
In response to the letter of claim Dr Appleby admitted that he had not carried out an abdominal examination on 8 December, but stated that this was because her history did not warrant it.
In the meantime, the General Medical Council (GMC) found that Dr Appleby’s conduct in relation to his care of Caroline “fell seriously short of the standard expected of doctors” and considered that he was guilty of serious professional misconduct.
The GMC also warned Dr Burton about his conduct in relation to his treatment of Caroline, particularly in relation to keeping clear records and taking more care when examining children.
Following negotiations, the claim was settled on 15 May 2001 in the sum of £13,200.
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