medical negligence

Widow secures six figure sum after 5 year delay in diagnosing husband’s brain tumour

woman looking thoughtfull out the window

Nick suffered a massive stroke when the doctors tried to remove a tumour which should have been diagnosed and removed several years earlier.  Sadly he died a few years later from a cardiac arrest.

Janine Collier, Partner Tees’ medical negligence team, helped Nick’s widow to pursue a claim against Nick’s optician and ophthalmologist for a delay in investigating a visual field defect (a sign of a brain tumour).  

Nick, a gentleman in his 40s, had always been fit and healthy.  He married Barbara and had worked all of his life, providing for her and the family.  They were both looking forwards to a long future and retirement together.  All that changed when Nick was diagnosed with a brain tumour and suffered a catastrophic stroke as a result of surgical complications.

Nick had visited his local optician as he had slightly blurred vision in one of his eyes some years previously.  The optician did some tests (including a visual field test) and told him that his symptoms were due to a lazy eye.  Nick felt that there was more to it and so the optician asked Nick’s GP to refer him to the ophthalmology department at his local hospital.  

The ophthalmologist told Nick that he had impending presbyopia (a progressive loss of the ability to focus near due to ageing) and discharged him.  

Over 5 years later, Nick suffered an episode of blurred vision, a problem with his speech and a feeling of heaviness in one of his arms and legs.  Brain imaging was carried out and a pituitary adenoma (a brain tumour) was found to be compressing part of his brain.  

Over the next few weeks, Nick’s condition deteriorated and he was admitted for surgery (a transsphenoidal hypophysectomy) to attempt to remove the tumour.  It was not possible to remove the whole tumour because it had invaded key structures in the brain.  Unfortunately, he suffered a haemorrhage and required further surgery (a right pterional craniotomy and decompression of the suprasellar region) a few days later.  

During that surgery, Nick suffered a major stroke – he lost movement on one side in his arm and leg) and he had very limited and blurry vision on one side, with the vision on the other fixed straight ahead.  

The stroke having caused severe damage to Nick’s mobility and functionality meant he  spent most of his time in his wheelchair and Barbara cared for him.  Although he had worked all of his life, he had to take early retirement.  

Unexpectedly, Nick died some four years later as a result of a heart attack. 

How we helped

Nick and Barbara were utterly shocked by the diagnosis of the brain tumour and the implications this would have for their future.  This was even more so after Nick suffered the catastrophic stroke as a complication of his surgery.  They had niggling concerns that in the preceding years Nick had seen a number of healthcare professionals and that the tumour should have been diagnosed sooner.  Nick and Barbara asked Tees if they had a claim for negligence.

Janine Collier, Partner in Tees’ medical negligence team said “When I met Nick and Barbara I was struck by what a lovely couple they were.  They were facing an uncertain future and I wanted to help them understand what had happened and to obtain some financial security for them to meet Nick’s needs in the future.”  

Janine reviewed all of the evidence and identified that a visual field defect (a sign and symptom of a brain tumour) had been identified by the optician some five years earlier, but this had not been acted upon.  Although the optician had referred Nick to the ophthalmologist, the defect was not mentioned in the referral form and the ophthalmologist had not looked at the visual field test.  Importantly, had the visual field defect been investigated (as it should have been) at that time, Nick’s brain tumour would have been diagnosed some 5 years earlier.  Although it may well still have been the case that the tumour could not have been completely removed, the surgery would have been less complex as the tumour would have been much smaller and would have been less invasive.  Nick would have had normal vision in both eyes and would not have suffered the stroke.

Liability was denied by both the optician and the Hospital Trust and so it was necessary to issue court proceedings.  The case was settled, shortly after Nick’s death.  Barbara wrote 'You really have made things as painless as possible Janine, and always explained things in a way I could understand, it has felt hard to carry on without [Nick], but I know he would be pleased that, I don't need to worry about not having any pension etc, and will be able to help our daughters.

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Chat to the Author, Janine Collier

Executive Partner, Medical Negligence, Cambridge office

Meet Janine
Janine Collier, partner, medical negligence specialist & cerebral palsy claims solicitor in Cambridge
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