Compensation for family after cancer patient dies in drug trial overdose
The family of Gary Foster, a 27 year old cancer patient who died in 2007 after taking part in a government funded medical trial, have finally been awarded substantial compensation. Gary, a graphic designer from Waltham Abbey in Essex, was suffering from testicular cancer. In the course of his treatment, on seven separate occasions, he was given double the prescribed amount of chemotherapy drug bleomycin. He died as a result of the overdose.
Gary was treated in University College London Hospitals NHS Trust (UCLH) after being diagnosed with testicular cancer. He was told that he had a 60% chance of survival and was offered a place on the medical trial which doctors told him would increase this. Gary and his family agreed to the trial, believing his chances of survival would be greater and that he would receive a better level of care.
The trial was testing whether a combination of five existing chemotherapy drugs was better at treating testicular cancer than the standard treatment of three drugs. From June 2007 until mid-September 2007 Gary was treated with the drugs at UCLH and on seven occasions he received 30,000 units of one of the drugs, bleomycin, instead of 15,000.
Despite exhibiting the symptoms of lung damage caused by bleomycin, medical staff did not recognise the warning signs that the drug was damaging his lungs. Eventually he became so ill that he was transferred to intensive care, requiring respiratory support, and died on 14th October 2007. The Coroner’s report found that Gary died as a result of lung damage caused by bleomycin toxicity and also as a result of the overdose of the bleomycin.
Gary Foster’s family instructed Mark Bowman, clinical negligence lawyer at Fieldfisher, in a claim against UCLH. Despite the outcome of the Coroner’s Report, UCLH continued to fight the case. It was only after proceedings were issued in the High Court that UCLH eventually admitted that their negligent treatment had caused Gary’s death. Even then, UCLH sought to deny the family compensation, stating that neither Gary’s fiancée nor his parents were entitled to recover damages as secondary victims.
Following a settlement meeting in July 2010, just four months before trial, UCLH agreed to pay out substantial compensation to Gary’s family in settlement of their claims.
Following the settlement Mark Bowman said: “I am pleased that UCLH has finally compensated Gary’s family. No amount of money can ever bring back a loved one but hopefully, following the settlement, the family can start to move on and rebuild their lives. This tragic case highlights the potential dangers involved in any form of clinical trial. Such trials need to be set up, regulated, monitored and administered with the utmost scrutiny, to avoid others suffering fatal consequences.”
Gary’s fiancée, at the conclusion of the claim, stated, “I am really grateful for all that Fieldfisher have done for me. When I first started the legal process people said to me that I would hate solicitors at the end of it and that I would be constantly chasing them. Thankfully that has not been the case. Mark has always responded to me promptly, even when it has been over something petty, and has always dealt with the claim with the utmost compassion..”