Wrong Cancer Diagnosis Led To Woman’s Stomach Being Needlessly Removed

Lawyer Calls For Hospital To Prove Lessons Have Been Learnt Following Legal Battle For Answers


A Staffordshire woman, who had her stomach needlessly removed after she was wrongly diagnosed with stomach cancer, has received a substantial undisclosed settlement which will secure access to the care and support she now needs for the rest of her life.

The pensioner (then aged 67), from Rugeley, was told she had a cancerous tumour after undergoing a series of tests at both Cannock Chase and Stafford General Hospital.

Just two days before Christmas, on 23rd December 2004, the grandmother of four, who has asked not to be named,  was transferred to University Hospital North Staffs and underwent what she believed was ‘life saving’ surgery.

However, following the operation, pathology tests revealed that the tumour was in fact benign and that earlier tests had been wrongly misinterpreted. She later found out that her stomach had, in fact, been needlessly removed.

Now, following this out of court settlement by Mid Staffordshire General Hospitals NHS Trust, a medical law expert from Irwin Mitchell solicitors is calling on hospitals throughout the UK to learn lessons to protect future patient safety and to be more open with patients when errors are made.

The pensioner had been referred to Cannock Chase Hospital by her GP after complaining of pains in her abdomen.

Following a series of investigations at both Cannock and also Stafford General Hospital, which are both managed by the same Trust, a multi disciplinary team of doctors and pathologists reviewed the findings and diagnosed stomach cancer.

However following surgery to remove the woman’s stomach, a further pathology test carried out at neighbouring University Hospital North Staffs  revealed that the tumour which was in fact benign and would have required nothing more than regular monitoring.

Timothy Deeming, from Irwin Mitchell Solicitors, who represented the woman, explained:  “This was a fundamental error which could and should have been avoided.

“What is of particular concern is that this wasn’t an individual human error but involved a team of clinicians who, between them, misinterpreted the test results and believed they were looking at signs of stomach cancer which were in fact never present.

“Sadly this is not the only case I have personally dealt with, where pathology results have been wrongly misinterpreted as stomach cancer. Several years ago errors at another Midlands hospital run by a different Trust, resulted in a patient needlessly undergoing the removal of their stomach.

“When such errors do occur, the public needs to be reassured that the hospitals concerned and the NHS as a whole, are learning lessons so that such catastrophic incidents are not repeated.

“My client and her family have understandably been devastated by what has happened. She not only went through the trauma of believing she had a life threatening tumour and the ordeal of having her stomach removed only to discover later that she did not have cancer and the operation to remove her stomach was unnecessary. She is particularly angry that she was not told the news by the doctors who were caring for her but was given the news indirectly by other members of staff.”

As a result of having her stomach removed, the pensioner, now aged 74, has lost a significant amount of weight. She suffers from painful digestive problems and can only eat small quantities of food.

She commented: “I was completely devastated when I was diagnosed with stomach cancer, but we tried to stay positive and braced ourselves for what we knew would be a difficult time ahead. It’s hard to put into words the shock I felt when I was told the tumour was benign and hadn’t needed my stomach removing after all.

“I am now in constant pain and discomfort. Not having a stomach means I do not absorb nutrients very well and can only eat very small quantities of food at any one time. I have little energy and everyday tasks are much harder.

“I would have carried on working either voluntarily or part-time and kept myself busy, as I always have done and I would have continued to enjoy holidays. So many of my retirement plans, have completely gone out of the window now.

“I really hope that the hospital learns lessons and take the time to re-train medical staff as their mistake has ruined my life and I would hate other people to go through the same ordeal.”