Cancer Misdiagnosis Leads To Loss Of Eye
The Law Of… highlighting medical negligence
The sad story of clinical failing that resulted in Mikala Jones losing her right eye began on October 2nd 2012. She would later go on to lose her life, although not as a consequence of this error.
Sarah Chambers, the Medical Negligence Solicitor at Simpson Millar who handled the late Mrs Jones' claim, recounts the details of what proved to be an ultimately tragic case.
Mikala Jones, or Mikala Ireland as she was then, had been suffering reduced vision in her right eye when, on October 2nd 2012, she visited the Diana Princess of Wales Hospital in Grimsby.
Following an ophthalmic exam and CT scan, it was revealed that Mrs Jones had 6/48 vision in her right eye, meaning she could see only at 6 metres what an average person could see at 48, and that there was a vitreous haemorrhage (bleeding into the gel between the lens and retina) affecting the inferior part of the eye.
Despite what was an evident cause for concern and, at the very least, further investigation, Mrs Jones was sent home without any additional review.
The rapid manner in which her vision continued to deteriorate in the one eye eventually forced a re-evaluation, just over a month after she was deemed fit enough to go home without further treatment. On November 13th, a second diagnosis of the symptoms was offered – a large ciliary body malignant melanoma (CBMM). Mrs Jones had a substantial tumour growing behind her right eye, one which was found to be cancerous.
Due to the size of the tumour and threat of metastasis (spread to other parts of the body), the decision was made to remove the affected eye.
Mrs Jones underwent surgery at the beginning of December 2012, a procedure that wasn't without incident itself, as her eyeball was ruptured during the operation, spilling some of its contents into the eye socket.
Now requiring an artificial eye and suffering with a degree of psychological trauma, Mrs Jones approached Simpson Millar to explore the possibilities of bringing a medical negligence claim against the hospital that had overseen the initial misdiagnosis. With Sarah Chambers acting on her behalf, work began on gathering evidence to back up the claim.
An independent Ophthalmologist (specialist in eye care) and Oncologist (specialist in tumours) were asked to look at the details of the case and offer their professional opinion on what had gone wrong and who was at fault. Both experts in their field, they advised that the Diana Princess of Wales Hospital had failed in their care by sending Mrs Jones home on October 2nd 2012. From the scans it was evident there was a large mass in her eye that should've undergone immediate investigation.
Further to that, the medical experts agreed that had a correct diagnosis been made on Mrs Jones' first visit to the hospital, the cancerous growth could have been treated with radiotherapy, negating the need for the eye removal and preserving the majority of her sight. Their evidence concluded with the alarming suspicion that due to the delay in diagnosis, along with the rupturing of the eyeball during surgery, Mrs Jones could now face an increased risk of contracting further cancer in the future.
Stage 4 Liver Cancer
Once the supportive medical evidence was in place, an ophthalmic negligence claim was begun. Unfortunately, the Diana Princess of Wales Hospital denied any liability for the loss of Mrs Jones' right eye, which left no other option than to issue court proceedings. As this was being done, it was revealed that she had been diagnosed with stage 4 liver cancer; an advancement of her condition that proved to be terminal as Mrs Jones sadly passed away in February 2016.
Having recently married, her grieving husband asked for the claim to be continued, with him, as her next of kin, representing her estate. In order to do this a Grant of Probate had to be obtained, which would prove to the court that Mr Jones had the right to act on behalf of Mrs Jones' estate; the name of the claimant also had to be altered on the pleadings issued at the court to reflect the tragic change in circumstances.
As the claim being brought against the hospital included the suggestion that misdiagnosis had put Mrs Jones at a greater risk of further cancer, it became necessary to discover whether it could be argued the delay in identifying the initial condition had been a contributing factor in her subsequent death. The Oncologist who had previously provided expert opinion was asked to perform an extensive review of her up-to-date medical records to determine whether causation existed. Following a thorough examination of the medical evidence provided, the expert declared that due to the speed and aggression with which the metastatic disease developed, there was, on the balance of probabilities, good reason to believe the cancer would have occurred regardless. This meant the claim was now limited to negligence causing the loss of Mrs Jones' right eye, along with the loss of vision and the psychological impact resulting from this.
What Can I Do If I Am Victim Of Ophthalmic Negligence?
If a medical misdiagnosis has affected the possibility of successfully treat your eye problem, or another form of medical error has an adverse effect upon your vision, you should seek independent legal advice from a law firm, such as Simpson Millar, with a specialist medical negligence department.
A number of factors will contribute to the value of any award you receive, including physical damage, loss of vision and the effect on your quality of life, along with any emotional or psychological trauma resulting from the misdiagnosis or error.
If you have suffered as a result of ophthalmic negligence, contact Simpson Millar and speak with one of our team.
Full And Final Settlement
The Diana Princess of Wales Hospital continued to deny responsibility for the circumstances that had made the removal of the eye necessary. Taking a proactive approach and with the agreement of the bereaved husband, an offer to resolve the claim for £30,000 was made. The hospital rejected this but made a counter offer of £18,000, demonstrating a willingness to settle.
This offered the opportunity to negotiate an increase in the amount the hospital was willing to pay, but despite the advice given to Mr Jones, he chose to accept the £18,000 counter offer in full and final settlement, the case drawing to a close in March 2017.
Sarah Chambers comments:
"This was a particularly unfortunate and ultimately tragic case, which demonstrates how a quickness to dismiss somebody's health concerns can often have drastic and life-changing consequences."
"Although the vast majority of healthcare professionals perform an extraordinary job under increasingly difficult circumstances, it shows that a single mistake can have ruinous effects on not only the person who sustains the injury but also their families and loved ones too. There may have been no causal link between the misdiagnosis and Mrs Jones' sad passing but losing an eyeball was devastating enough, resulting in a degree of psychological trauma."
"Claims like these are never just about the money. The key aim is to highlight where medical negligence has occurred, so that the necessary measures can be taken to ensure it never happens again."