£594,000 to a 63-year-old woman for undergoing double mastectomy, and numerous further surgeries, after a misdiagnosis of breast cancer.

The claimant (“C”) had a history of benign breast lumps, which had been surgically removed at the defendant's hospital. In 1984, following an excision biopsy of a further benign lump at the defendant's hospital, the claimant agreed to participate in a clinical trial of a new drug, Danazol, for the treatment of benign breast disease. The claimant responded favourably to the treatment.  

However, in December 1985 a right breast biopsy at the end of the trial period was misreported by a pathologist at the defendant's hospital. As a result, C was subsequently misdiagnosed with breast cancer. 

On the basis of this incorrect diagnosis, C was advised to have both of her breasts surgically removed (a double mastectomy). Her right nipple was removed but left nipple conserved and she underwent drug therapy with high dose Tamoxfien. Subsequently, she had breast reconstruction procedures. 

The claimant developed vaginal bleeding and underwent gynaecological investigations/procedures that confirmed there was ‘cell enlargement’ which was causing the bleeding and is a known side-effect of Tamoxifen treatment. Bleeding continued to be troublesome leading to a hysterctomy, as well as removal of fallopian tubes and ovaries. C also claimant developed a thyroid cyst which was removed by a right thyroid lobectomy in March 1992. 


After this, in 1994, C was informed that the breast cancer diagnosis had been incorrect and she stopped the tamoxifen treatment on advice. However, the hospital justified giving her the double mastectomy on the basis of her having a high-risk profile for breast disease. 

In total the claimant underwent 13 operations between January 1986 and January 1999 as a result of the original misdiagnosis: a double mastectomy, seven reconstructive breast procedures, a partial thyroidectomy and two hernia repairs. 

C brought a claim for negligent misdiagnosis of cancer. Despite the Hospital trying to justify the mastectomies on the grounds of a high-risk factor for breast cancer, liability and causation of injury was admitted prior to the Trial. The judge commented that a serious and indefensible misdiagnosis had been made. 

The claimant was left with a sense of mutilation and her body image was altered profoundly. The claimant suffered from depression and had a very low sense of self-esteem. The claimant had retired from work prematurely under the belief that her condition was terminal.  She had believed that she had cancer for a 9-year period. She had given up her very promising employment as a result of the stress of the cancer. C had managerial responsibility for over 100 staff at that time, and had intended to remain in the job until the age of 65.  C suffered from many issues of scarring and appearance on her breasts, abdomen, thyroid surgery etc. C suffered from a severe body image problem, and her personal relationships were difficult as a result. She also suffered the effects of a full hysterectomy after she developed complications in using the cancer drug Tamoxifen. C’s second marriage was dissolved in 1990. She felt that the divorce was caused partly as a result of her sense of mutilation and her profoundly altered body image. C married her third husband, who was understanding of the her difficulties, in 1992. 

C’s depression caused her to have a very low sense of self-esteem. She was unable to work in her garden which involved bending, lifting and stretching, and was unable to carry out many household tasks. She had to wear a support girdle and relied on her husband or friends for domestic assistance. The claimant had gained weight as a result of the limitation in her physical activity. At the date of the award the claimant worked for a voluntary telephone helpline for people with breast cancer. 

Out of the large compensation sum a figure (in today’s terms) for the award for pain and suffering is £117,000.  The balance of the compensation was for past and anticipated future financial losses. 

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