A medical negligence solicitor says a hospital specialist’s decision not to carry out a colonoscopy on a women displaying ‘red flag’ symptoms of bowel cancer was ‘completely inexcusable’ – and one which independent experts say cost the woman at least 10 years of life.
Mary Badham had visited her GP with classic symptoms of bowel cancer in 2009, then aged 65, and was referred to Sandwell General Hospital in the West Midlands to see a specialist.
However, she was diagnosed, without a colonoscopy having been performed, as suffering from Irritable Bowel Syndrome and sent home with tablets.
Two years later, Mrs Badham was invited to attend Bowel Cancer Screening as part of the national NHS’ screening programme, where she discovered she had cancer and that it was terminal. She died less than three years later, in April 2014, aged 72.
Her husband Ron Badham, 79, has now received a substantial compensation settlement from the Sandwell and West Birmingham NHS Trust, which runs the hospital, after bringing a claim against them through clinical negligence specialists Hudgell Solicitors.
The Trust admitted its failure to carry out a colonoscopy in 2009 fell below a reasonable standard and therefore admitted breach of duty.
Hospital Trust admits breach of duty following medical negligence claim
Caroline Murgatroyd, a clinical negligence specialist at Hudgell Solicitors, said: “Mary Badham did the right thing in going to see her GP with symptoms that, quite rightly, raised immediate concern for the doctor, who referred her to see a specialist.
“She was over 60, and therefore there should have been a strong suspicion of bowel cancer, and if the specialist had acted properly, a colonoscopy would have taken place within four weeks, and treatment followed soon after.
“However, the specialist did not book Mrs Badham in for further tests, despite exhibiting the red flag warnings for bowel cancer. This was completely inexcusable and was an error which has led to a loving wife, mother and grandmother being taken from her family far too soon. They have had to carry on living without her, knowing she could have been saved.
“We know no amount of money can bring Mrs Badham back to her family, but we hope the fact that admissions have been made, and that this settlement has been offered, provides some comfort, and that by sharing details of their case the family helps raise awareness for others to demand tests, or seek second opinions, when concerns over health are too easily dismissed.”
Family sought legal advice to hold hospital trust and specialist to account
Mr Badham says he pursued the legal case in order to hold the hospital trust and specialist to account, and to make other families aware of the need to demand tests are carried out when symptoms of potentially serious conditions persist, and are dismissed too easily by medical professionals.
Mrs Badham initially saw gastroenterology specialist Dr Nigel Trudgill, who diagnosed Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and prescribed medication, without examining her.
Mr Badham, a retired accountant, said: “She was passing blood and suffering from episodes of diarrhoea, and her GP referred her to a specialist.
“I can remember her coming back from seeing the specialist and she had a smile on her face, as happy as if she had won the lottery. She was ecstatic with joy and said ‘at least I haven’t got cancer’.
“She felt reassured, but I was concerned as in my own mind then as I didn’t feel it had been explored properly. She didn’t want me to interfere though and I didn’t want to upset her. She said she had been to see the ‘top man’ and she was reassured.”
Over the next two years his wife, a full time housewife, continued to suffer from crippling abdominal pains, bleeding, and diarrhoea, which impacted on her quality of life.
“Some days were worse than others. But she would be in severe pain at times,” said Mr Badham.
In 2011 she was invited to attend bowel cancer screening but her husband recalled she wasn’t worried about the results, having seen Mr Trudgill two years earlier.
The screening showed an abnormal blood result and she was fast-tracked for a colonoscopy, which revealed she had bowel cancer.
Mrs Badham was operated on in September 2011 to remove the tumour, and started chemotherapy treatment, but it was later abandoned as she suffered from ‘considerable toxicity’.
In July 2012, she was then diagnosed with womb cancer, which was not connected to the bowel cancer, but because of the poor prognosis of the bowel cancer, doctors were unable to offer adjuvant radiotherapy to treat it.
An independent oncology expert, who was instructed by Hudgell Solicitors to study her medical reports as part of the legal claim, concluded that she would have had a good chance of being successfully treated, and living for at least another 10 years, if the bowel cancer had been spotted by the consultant in 2009.
Because it was undiagnosed for two further years, it had become more advanced and spread to her lymph nodes by the time it was found. The expert also said Mrs Badham would have been likely to have been cured of her womb cancer had the bowel cancer been treated in 2009.
Mr Badham, of West Bromwich, Wes Midlands, says he feels ”robbed” of ten more years with his wife, who he had been married to for 45 years, with two sons and two grandchildren.
He said: “After being diagnosed as terminal, she was still a very strong person and she didn’t feel sorry for herself. She made the best of every day. I was more stressed by it than she was, she never cried at all, it was amazing how strong she was.”
The couple enjoyed holidays after her diagnosis and Mr Badham said his wife continued to enjoy gardening and days out up until six months before she died in April 2014 – less than three years after her cancer diagnosis.
Husband feels case is of ‘public interest’ and urges others to demand tests
Mr Badham has since reported Dr Trudgill to the General Medical Council, but was told it was not in the public interest to investigate, and that the period in which he could make a complaint had expired.
He said: “I do think it is in the public interest, I think people need to be aware of what we’ve gone through. If anyone is dissatisfied with their diagnosis, get another opinion. Don’t make the same mistake as Mary.
“This has been very hard for myself, our two sons, and our grandchildren. They thought the world of her, and she thought the world of them.
”It is bad enough losing your wife or partner, but it’s the circumstances of that loss that are hard to accept – that she could have lived longer if they’d found the cancer when they should have done.
“If she had had surgery and something had gone wrong, or if he had examined her and missed something, I could have maybe accepted it, but not to have even examined her is inexcusable.”