Medical negligence by a GP: Lucinda’s story

Medical negligence by a GP: Lucinda’s story

Everyone has the right to expect professionalism and care from their healthcare provider. If you believe you’ve been injured by a medical professional, you might be entitled to claim for compensation for your injuries.

Suffering medical negligence can be extremely distressing. It is not unusual for patients to have difficulty identifying an injury caused by their medical or other health care provider, particularly if their treatment has been complex and involved long periods of hospitalisation. Often what patients articulate is a “sense of wrongness” about their treatment.

Lucinda’s lumps

Lucinda was a 32-year-old in the prime of her life. With her dream job, her dream partner, and a great circle of friends, she was a go-getter with a positive attitude. This was partly due to having lost her mother to breast cancer. Lucinda knew life was short.

One day Lucinda discovered a small pea-sized lump in her breast, and went straight to her GP. While the GP believed Lucinda just had fibrocystic or “lumpy” breast tissue, he suggested she get an ultrasound just to be safe. Lucinda had an ultrasound, but nothing showed up. She was told her lumpy feeling in her breast was just due to hormonal changes.

As time went on, however, Lucinda noticed the lump continue to grow, and about 12 months later, she discovered a lump in her underarm. She returned to the GP. He said it was likely an enlarged lymph node due to an infection, and prescribed Lucinda antibiotics. However, the GP neglected to review his prior notes about her breast lump, and Lucinda did not mention to her GP that her breasts were still lumpy as she presumed it was a separate problem.

When she completed the course of antibiotics, the underarm lump and the breast lump were still present. So she returned to her doctor concerned. She also mentioned to her doctor that her breasts where still lumpy.  The GP was also alarmed by these symptoms, and requested she undergo an ultrasound once more and a mammogram to double check things.

A biopsy was ordered immediately and the results revealed Lucinda had advanced breast cancer. It was now stage three breast cancer, having spread to her lymph nodes and other parts of her body.

A surgeon’s critical eye

Lucinda consulted a breast surgeon who was critical of Lucinda’s GP for failing to properly investigate the initial lump and not giving Lucinda the ‘triple test’. This test is 99.5% accurate in detecting breast cancer, and involves an ultrasound, mammogram and fine needle biopsy. The breast surgeon was adamant that if this test had been performed on Lucinda 12 months earlier, the breast cancer would have been detected.

The surgeon was able to provide evidence of how quickly the cancer had grown over the 12 months, and the likely nature and extent of the cancer 12 months earlier. This meant an assessment could be made of the likely treatment required 12 months prior, and the likely efficacy of that treatment and therefore hypothetical prognosis.

This was then compared to the actual outcome which Lucinda was experiencing, to assess the damage. It was alleged that if the triple test had been completed, the cancer would have been diagnosed. 12 months earlier, it is likely that the cancer would have been in the breast tissue alone and under 2cm in diameter, and therefore treatable by a lumpectomy with minimal, if any, chemotherapy. It was also proven that it was more likely than not that her life expectancy would not have been dramatically altered, and she could have returned to work within a few months.

Sadly, for Lucinda, her family and her friends, because the GP had not reviewed the patient history notes and did not send her for away further scans Lucinda’s cancer was now incurable.

How a lawyer assisted Lucinda

Lucinda engaged lawyers to make a claim in medical negligence against the GP to cover:

  • Loss of Lucinda’s wages, as she had to cease working to undergo treatment, surgery for removal of both breasts, removal of lymph nodes, chemotherapy and radiation therapy. 
  • Lucinda’s non-economic loss to cover her pain and suffering
  • Lucinda’s care she needed both now and in the future as her husband was required to help her with self-care, cleaning and things around the home. This was also assessed by an occupational therapist who provided evidence that in the final 6–12 months of life, it was expected this would increase greatly and she would need a significant amount of care.

The lawyer was able to organise all of the documents and expert witnesses to ensure that Lucinda’s claims were expedited and dealt with promptly. A large sum was awarded to Lucinda and her partner due to the extensive damage caused, and done so within 12 months. The matter settled and the compensation offered to Lucinda meant that her quality of life and comfort was the best that it could be at this difficult time in her life.

It’s important to note that not all undesirable or adverse outcomes are due to medical negligence. Sometimes complications can occur, these are often referred to as risks of a procedure.

If you have suffered a negative outcome, ask your doctor for more information regarding why this poor outcome has occurred. An apology is not an admission of guilt, yet health professionals are often reluctant to apologise to patients.

Reach out to Gordon Legal today

Medical negligence and medical malpractice cases are highly-specialised areas of the law. Making a medical negligence claim requires an expert lawyer with years of experience.

We understand that these types of cases are often very distressing to individuals and their families, and our lawyers approach each case with care, consideration and empathy. Our practice is to ensure that we work with you to achieve the compensation that you deserve to help you rest, recuperate and hopefully fully recover.

If you believe you may have a claim, you should contact one of our expert lawyers today on 1300 57 25 18.