Case Studies

Settlement against trust following delayed gallbladder cancer diagnosis


Our clinical negligence team in Cambridge acted on a claim against an NHS trust for a delay in diagnosing gallbladder cancer.

The claimant, the patient’s son, claimed that if his mother had been diagnosed sooner, a treatment plan would have been put in place and she would not have died when she did.

In September 2008, the patient underwent a laparoscopic cholecystectomy to remove her gallbladder. During the course of the procedure, there was spillage of the bile and small gall stones into the peritoneal cavity. Samples were sent to histology but the report confirming adenocarcinoma was not passed to the consultant or the patient’s GP.

She recovered well from this initial surgery but developed an incisional hernia which was repaired in September 2009. A few weeks later, she was admitted to hospital with shortness of breath and was diagnosed with a pulmonary embolism.

In November 2011, she attended hospital with abdominal pain and vomiting. Investigations showed a small bowel obstruction. She underwent surgery and a number of specimens were taken. A CT scan in December 2011 confirmed metastatic adenocarcinoma, with the gallbladder thought to be the primary location.

The patient underwent eight cycles of palliative chemotherapy and one cycle of second line chemotherapy between August 2012 and March 2013 when it was felt she was too unwell to tolerate further treatment. She passed away in June 2013.

The trust admitted a failure to document and act on the results of the biopsy in September 2008. It accepted  that if the results had been communicated and acted on, the patient would have been treated and cured. Following the issue of proceedings, the trust agreed to a settlement.


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