Hudgell Solicitors is supporting the daughter of a woman who died after doctors missed a cancerous tumour on her bowel in demanding answers over her care.
Jane Foster says the NHS ‘massively let down’ her mother, Patricia Sebine, by ignoring concerns over her declining health.
Mrs Sebine, 76, died two weeks after doctors at St James’ Hospital in Leeds discovered the tumour and an emergency operation to remove it proved unsuccessful.
The hospital has since, however, acknowledged missing signs of a tumour on an initial CT scan three months earlier, saying a ‘very subtle lesion’ had been present, but insisting it would have been ‘a difficult diagnosis to make’ at the time.
Hudgell Solicitors are now supporting Ms Foster by asking serious questions around the standard of care provided to her mother, particularly given the indications that the tumour was missed on the first CT scan, and a recommended MRI scan was not then carried out.
“This is a very tragic case and one in which Ms Foster struggles to understand how doctors can have identified a suspicious growth on the initial CT scan but then failed to investigate further and rule out something more serious,” said solicitor Tasmin White.
“We will support Ms Foster in seeking further answers around her mother’s care, as there are certainly questions as to whether the cancer could and should have been diagnosed much earlier, and whether earlier intervention and treatment could have led to a better outcome for her mother.”
Concerns over health not heard
Ms Foster has criticised health officials for being dismissive of her concerns, and the potential seriousness of the situation. They repeatedly said they could not find anything of major concern from examinations and treated her for anaemia and diverticulitis.
Ms Foster says that given her mother had previously overcome bowel cancer after treatment in 1994, and had suffered from continued pain, sickness and diarrhoea for eight months, shedding weight due to a loss of appetite, serious questions must now be asked over her care.
“My mum was massively let down by the NHS. I knew she was seriously ill but nobody in the NHS would listen to me,” said Ms Foster, of Leeds, West Yorkshire.
“I had doors shut in my face all the time. Now I want answers from them as I feel their treatment contributed to my mother’s death. I want to know exactly how long the tumour had been there, how long it was missed and whether anything could have been done to change the outcome for her.
“When you go into the oncology department at the hospital there are leaflets left there for Joe Public to understand and spot the symptoms of bowel cancer. They are all about unexplained weight loss, anaemia and other symptoms to look for.
“My mum had every single one for months and months, and a history of bowel cancer from 1994, yet it wasn’t considered. All we kept being told, despite her being so ill, was that there was nothing serious to worry about.”
Doctors failed to spot ‘small lesion’
A first CT scan was carried out on Mrs Sebine on January 15, 2014.
Doctors concluded that it showed ‘some thickening of the lower rectal wall’, but assumed that to be a pelvic floor problem which could be managed clinically. They also failed to spot a ‘small lesion’ higher in her bowel.
An MRI scan was requested following an out-patients visit a fortnight later, but that was cancelled by radiology specialists as they didn’t feel it necessary.
When Mrs Sebine returned to hospital again at the end of March, still suffering the same symptoms, a tumour was finally identified on a second CT scan and she was operated on the following day.
Unfortunately, by this time doctors were unable to remove the tumour as it had become attached to both her bowel and uterus. Part of her bowel had to be removed, and she died two weeks after the operation after her condition rapidly declined.
Demanding answers from hospital Trust
Ms Foster says she found her mother’s care particularly baffling given she had previously been diagnosed with bowel cancer in 1994.
“Nobody believed me when I kept saying I feared it was cancer, but me and my mum were joined at the hip and saw her every single day throughout those last eight months,” she added.
“She was in agony, particularly for the last two weeks of her life, and I believe that she didn’t have adequate pain relief to help her.”
Ms Foster says she will not give up demanding answers to her questions and says that the Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust must now be held accountable and issue a full apology.
Whatever the outcome of the investigations, Ms Foster says she will never recover from seeing her mother’s decline over the last eight months of her life.
“Despite being been diagnosed with vascular dementia in 2012, my mum had continued to live independently and was able to make her own decisions,” she said.
“Due to the poor care I feel she was receiving, I lived with her at the hospital until she died, and now she is gone, my life feels over,” she said.
“I’ve been left without a mum, mentally scarred and no other family. I feel massively lonely and I relive it every single day and night.”
“Whatever happens, I believe that my mum was not given the best chance of beating the condition she had and I hope that, with the support of my solicitors, I can get the closure I so desperately need.”