Mum Of Three Dies During Surgery To Remove Tumour

Medical Law Expert Urges Clinicians To Learn Lessons From ‘Avoidable Tragedy’

01.08.2011

The family of a Warwickshire woman, who suffered massive blood loss and died during surgery to remove a tumour from her chest, have today received a substantial six figure settlement.

Terri Bailey (34), from Bedworth in North Warwickshire, was diagnosed with a tumour in her chest, which went undetected for seven months. By the time it was discovered, the tumour was the size of a football occupying most of her chest and weighed 1.6kg.

On 10th November 2005, Ms Bailey underwent surgery at Walsgrave Hospital in Coventry to remove the tumour but died on the operating table after she developed a severely abnormal heart rhythm which could not be restored despite the surgeons attempting resuscitation for over an hour.

A medical law specialist from Irwin Mitchell Solicitors who represented the family says Ms Bailey’s tragic death was an avoidable tragedy, which raises serious questions about pre-surgical preparations and has urged the hospital to learn lessons to protect future patient welfare.

Less than two months before the case was due to go to trial, against both University Hospital Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust and GPs Dr Peter Hickson and Dr Sukhdev Singh who practise at Bedworth Medical Centre, the three Defendants jointly offered to settle the case out of court for a substantial undisclosed six figure sum. However none of the three defendants have admitted liability for failings in Ms Bailey’s care.

As the compensation provides for Ms Bailey’s three children, including one who is only 15 years old,  the settlement has been formally approved in the High Court in Birmingham today (1st August). 

According to her family, Ms Bailey, who worked as a Home Care Supervisor for Warwickshire County Council, was suffering from symptoms of tiredness, breathlessness and pain under her left breast but despite visiting Bedworth Health Centre on a number of occasions, complaining of the same symptoms she was not referred for a chest x-ray.

More than seven months later she was seen by a third GP who spotted her ‘red flag’ symptoms and urgently referred her for a same day x-ray at George Elliot Hospital in Nuneaton. A chest x-ray revealed the devastating news that Terri had a large tumour in her chest which was possibly malignant and she was subsequently referred to Coventry’s Walsgrave Hospital for surgery.

During the operation to remove the tumour, which was subsequently found to be cancerous, Terri Bailey suffered a severely abnormal heart rhythm and despite an hour of resuscitation in theatre during which time Terri was given three times the body’s blood volume in replacement fluids, a normal heart rhythm could not be restored and she was pronounced dead.  

Lindsay Gibb, a medical negligence expert at Irwin Mitchell Solicitors, commented: “This tragic case has sadly left three children without their mother and raises a number of extremely serious concerns regarding the level of care Terri received from both her GPs and the hospital.

“The symptoms which Terri was suffering from should, in the view of our medical experts, have rung alarm bells much earlier and prompted a chest x-ray which would have been easy to arrange and would have led to a much earlier diagnosis. 

“Instead it would appear two GPs ignored signs that something was seriously wrong, which delayed her being referred to hospital.

“By the time a CT scan finally revealed the true extent of her illness, the tumour was very large making the operation more difficult. Terri did not know at the time of surgery that her tumour was malignant, which would in all likelihood have limited her life expectancy.

“However, our medical experts strongly believe that Terri’s heart problems during surgery were caused by significant blood loss which  occurred as the tumour, which had a number of blood vessels feeding it, was removed piece by piece.

“Our experts were of the firm opinion that if the blood supply to the tumour had been appreciated by those caring for Terri and proper pre-operative planning had been carried out, this could have been avoided and Terri would not have died on the operating table.”

Speaking on behalf of the family, Terri’s mother, Janine Dennis, (58) also from Bedworth, said: “When Terri died we were shocked and devastated, particularly as the surgeon had told her that the risk of dying during surgery was only 2%. 

“We just wanted answers about how and why she died  but the more we learned from the medical experts instructed by our Solicitor, the more angry we became that steps were not taken by those supposedly caring for her, that could potentially have saved her life. 

“It has been a long legal battle in our fight for justice for Terri which has been made particularly difficult due to the fact an out of court settlement was only offered just weeks before a trial and that despite this pay-out no-one has been held accountable or apologised for Terri’s death” 

“We have all been devastated by what has happened, especially Terri’s children, Zac (15), Leah (18) and Connor (20), who have had to grow up without their mum.

“We understand that Terri had a malignant tumour, but she should not have died during surgery. She was taken from us so suddenly under circumstances which should have been avoided. I just hope that lessons have been learnt, as no other family should have to go through the pain and devastation that we have.”