Missed Diagnosis Led To 24 Year Old's Death

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The Law Of… challenging a misdiagnosis

A young Edinburgh woman died from a brain tumour, following repeated misdiagnosis of her condition. Victoria Clark, a Medical Negligence Solicitor with Simpson Millar, examines this tragic case and looks at what you can do when unhappy with a diagnosis.


Misdiagnosed 14 Times

Stephanie Dickson had everything to live for. Aged 24 and recently moved into her first flat, friends' spoke of her indefatigable energy, love of socialising, and the fact she was always laughing and smiling.

In April 2013, Ms Dickson was found dead; the cause, a benign tumour that had resulted in a build-up of pressure inside her skull.

For the 9 months prior to her death, she was suffering with headaches, neck pain and dizziness, symptoms misdiagnosed as a migraine a total of 14 times. With nothing more than analgesics to manage her pain Ms Dickson's condition worsened, until the day before her death when she went to the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh and was subsequently placed on a drip.

The following morning she was discharged and within hours had died.

98% Chance of Survival

An inquest into Ms Dickson's death found that numerous possibilities to save her had been missed, with a correct diagnosis at the Royal Infirmary A&E department, just hours before her passing, enough to offer a 98% chance of survival.

What makes an already disastrous catalogue of errors that little bit more distressing for her family is the fact that Ms Dickson suspected all along she might have a brain tumour, saying as much to a friend, hence her repeated visits to the doctors.

How Do You Challenge An Unsatisfactory Diagnosis?

The case of Stephanie Dickson highlights the fact that although in the vast majority of instances healthcare professionals make correct diagnoses, they can sometimes get it wrong – tragically so.

Correctly diagnosing injuries or conditions can be difficult and sometimes there may be a number of possible options, which is referred to as a differential diagnoses. When a situation like this arises, a doctor should go through the process of eliminating each alternative until a final diagnosis is reached.

Victoria comments:

"It is important to remember that you can question your doctor if you feel they have arrived at the wrong conclusion. You should ask them to explain the diagnosis, how they came to reach it and ensure you report all of your symptoms, as well as improvements or deterioration in your condition."

"You can also request a referral to a specialist and, although it isn't a legal right, you might want to consider a second opinion. Your personal circumstances should be considered by your doctor when making the decision as to whether a second opinion is appropriate."

"Alternatively, so far as your GP is concerned, you might try and book an appointment with another doctor at the same surgery, or, if this isn't an option, register with a new practice. Where you are under the care of a hospital doctor and you find your request for a second opinion turned down, you can discuss your concern with the Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS), who will have officers on site, ready to deal with your issue."

If you believe you have been the victim of medical negligence, which has adversely affected the quality of your life, you may be entitled to compensation. For further information, contact one of our medical negligence team today.



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