Medical Negligence Lawyers Join Relatives In Raising Awareness Of Signs Of Disease After Doctor Admits Breach Of Duty
The family of a woman who died following a seven-month delay in diagnosing ovarian cancer have shared some of her final wishes as they campaign to improve patient safety.
Sheila Brown’s loved ones have released excerpts of letters she wrote to the family asking them to establish answers regarding her care to help others.
Medical negligence lawyers asked investigate ovarian cancer diagnosis
It comes after Sheila, of Deckham, Gateshead, instructed expert medical negligence lawyers at Irwin Mitchell to investigate the care she received during a number of GP appointments she attended complaining of back pain. Following her death, her family continued those investigations in line with her wishes.
A GP admitted a breach of duty, including that they should have referred the avid Newcastle United fan to a specialist and for a scan. The doctor also provided inappropriate reassurance regarding her back pain, they admitted through their lawyers.
When Sheila’s ovarian cancer was diagnosed, specialists said her tumour was growing rapidly and was inoperable. The only suitable treatment was palliative chemotherapy.
Sheila raised concerns about delays in her diagnosis. She died in a hospice four months later in September 2016, aged 57.
Family release excerpts of dying Newcastle United fan's letters to improve patient care
Before her death, Sheila wrote: “It is with great sadness that I write this but I need to get what has happened to me written down before I become too ill.
“If I talk to my family or friends about this I become very emotional and tears just flow. This is no good for me or my family so this is why I’m putting this down in words so I don’t upset too many loved ones.
“I’m looking to the future and I need to use all my strength and energy to be able to have chemo which may give me a little longer with all my brothers, sisters, nephews, nieces and some very close friends.
“Oh dear the tears are flowing now not for myself; it’s just I know some of my nephews and nieces will miss me. Yes I’m their Aunt but over the years to some of them I’ve been like an extra parent, best friend, financial advisor to the older ones, and homework helper to the younger ones.
“It’s too late for me but things like this should not happen and it must be investigated.
“Swift diagnosis and access to treatment are absolutely vital as we all know the more advanced the cancer is the harder it is to treat.”
Gateshead woman's family want lessons learned after cancer diagnosis delay
Sheila’s family have now joined their legal team at Irwin Mitchell in calling for lessons to be learned. It comes after they received an undisclosed settlement.
Expert Opinion“Sheila was a much-loved sister and aunt whose death continues to have a devastating impact on her many friends and family.
“While nothing can make up for the family’s hurt and pain, we’re pleased that we’ve at least been able to honour Sheila’s memory by providing them with the answers she wanted regarding her diagnosis in order to improve patient safety.
“It’s now vital that lessons are learned from the worrying issues identified in Sheila’s care.
"We hope what happened to Sheila reminds all medical professionals of the need to be aware of the symptoms of cancer and refer patients for specialist opinion where appropriate.” Ashlee Coates - Solicitor
Ovarian cancer diagnosis delay: Sheila Brown's story
Sheila, who had breast cancer in 1998, attended a number of GP appointments between January 2015 and January 2016, complaining of back pain.
She underwent blood tests in July and August 2015 which indicated reduced kidney function and raised inflammatory markers.
Sheila raised concerns that her cancer may have returned. However, a GP reassured her there was no indication that it had. The doctor did not her refer her to a kidney specialist or for an ultrasound scan.
In January 2016 Sheila was diagnosed with a deep vein thrombosis in her leg. Following hospital scans and tests she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer which had spread to her lungs.
Whilst in the hospice, Sheila researched specialist medical negligence firms and instructed Irwin Mitchell. She died shortly after and her family, including brother Billy, aged 64, continued pursuing the investigations into her care.
GP admits breach of duty over cancer diagnosis
Through their lawyers a GP involved in Sheila’s care admitted a breach of duty.
The GP admitted that they failed to appreciate the significance in Sheila’s reduced kidney function and raised inflammatory markers. They should have referred Sheila to a kidney specialist and for an ultrasound scan. The doctor also admitted providing inappropriate reassurance regarding her back pain.
The GP’s legal team accepted that a referral should have been made in August 2015. If it was Sheila would have been diagnosed with cancer by mid-October 2015. She would have had surgery and radiotherapy and would have had a life expectancy of five years.
Family's tribute to amazing person and number one Newcastle United fan
Speaking on behalf of the family, Billy, aged 64, said: “Sheila really was an amazing person. From being young she always offered help and advice. As the family grew up, her brothers and sisters married and had children. Sheila remained at home going out to work whilst still taking care of the family.
“She helped her nieces and nephews with trips to the beach, theme parks, taking them to play football as well as Newcastle United home and away matches.
“Her time and energy was always put into the whole family. As her nieces and nephews got older, married and had children the cycle started again. Nothing was ever a problem. Sheila taught us to be grateful and not take anything for granted. Life lessons that remain with us.
“It’s difficult to describe how she was everyone’s confidante, financial advisor, tutor. Her football knowledge was second to none. She wasn’t just a Newcastle United supporter she was their number one supporter.
“Sheila suffered illness throughout her life. She fought breast cancer and had no qualms she would do it again. She fought to the bitter end. It’s devastating that it was taken out of her hands.
“Sheila really was one of the most amazing people you could have in your life. She was head of the family, a great sister, aunty, best friend; a genuine, kind soul.
Sheila Brown's family hope answers will improve care for others
“The sleepovers with her in the hospice were the hardest yet some of the funniest times we had as a family. Despite everything she was going through Sheila would be the instigator of jokes. Although she was dying she was thinking of everyone else and wanted to make sure they weren’t sad.
“Sheila knew she wouldn’t be here to be told the answers regarding what happened to her but she was determined her care should be investigated. She wanted answers knowing full well they couldn’t save her but they could stop another person and family going through the hell we have all been through.”
Sheila also leaves behind brothers John, aged 59, Dennis, aged 60, and two sisters Kath, aged 63, and 57 year old Anne.
Find out more about Irwin Mitchell's expertise in helping people and their family following cancer diagnosis delays at our dedicated medical negligence section. Alternatively to speak to an expert contact us or call 0370 1500 100.