Damages for family of cervical cancer woman who felt 'fobbed off'

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The family of a 25-year-old woman who died of cervical cancer after feeling "fobbed off" by her GPs have won £15,000 damages at the High Court.

Sophie Hague died at home in Surbiton, Surrey in November 2011 after enduring a hysterectomy, two unsuccessful cycles of chemo-radiotherapy and emergency surgery from which she never recovered.

Her mother Suzanne and fiance, David Rich, claimed there was an inappropriate delay in diagnosing Ms Hague, who visited Langley Medical Practice in November 2009 and February 2010 complaining of pain and bleeding - but was not physically examined on either occasion or referred.

Ms Hague was not diagnosed until June 2010, after she told her mother that she felt "fobbed off" by Dr John Dalzell and Dr Daniel Fish and a scan was arranged by the family.

Counsel Adam Korn told Mr Justice Lewis in London that it was alleged that the GPs wrongly and negligently failed to take seriously enough Ms Hague's complaints and make an onward referral for specialist diagnosis and treatment.

"Such referral would have led to early surgery and, on the balance of probabilities, it would have led to Sophie being cured of her disease."

Mr Korn said both doctors had admitted breach of duty and it was accepted that Ms Hague should have had a pelvic examination.

But, there was a dispute over legal causation, with the defence contending that earlier diagnosis and treatment would have made no difference to the outcome.

Their case was that the tumour was so aggressive that Ms Hague would have died whenever surgery was performed.

On Friday, the judge said that Dr Dalzell and Dr Fish failed to exercise reasonable skill and care in their treatment of Ms Hague in November 2009 and February 2010.

He said: "If they had treated Sophie appropriately, Sophie would have been referred for further examination and a malign, cancerous tumour of the cervix would have been discovered and Sophie would have undergone surgery in either December 2009 or March 2010 rather than in July 2010 as actually happened.

"That failure resulted in pain and suffering to Sophie in that her symptoms were untreated for seven months and that pain and suffering was made worse by the anguish of knowing that the cancer could have been detected earlier.

"To that extent, the claim for negligence succeeds."

However, he added, on the balance of probabilities, the cancer would have recurred and Ms Hague would not have survived for five years, but would have died.

That aspect of the claim for negligence and a claim for wrongful death did not succeed.

It was agreed that if the court had decided that Ms Hague would have survived if she had been diagnosed earlier, the amount of compensation would be £225,000.

As it found that the negligence did not cause her death, it was agreed that the appropriate sum was £15,000.