The woman, who is terminally ill with bowel cancer, has settled the compensation claim she made against her former surgeon after receiving a misdiagnosis of her illness.
The patient – Emma Cook, forty-one of Stanbridge in Bedfordshire – first brought her condition to the attention of medics in 2009, when she visited her GP with abdominal pain. There, she was diagnosed with an infection of her urinary tract and prescribed a course of antibiotics. Yet her condition progressed and she suffered from vomiting, diarrhoea and a fever. She was referred to the Accident and Emergency Department of the Stoke Mandeville Hospital.
Dr James Tweedie, a consultant surgeon, treated Mrs Cook at the facility, suspecting that her symptoms could indicate a urinary tract infection, a cyst on her ovaries or appendicitis. An ultrasound was carried out, and a mass on Mrs Cook’s appendix was observed. Mrs Cook was then put on antibiotics in preparation for an appendectomy.
The antibiotics eased Mrs Cook’s condition such that she was released from hospital in December of that year without the aforementioned appendectomy being carried out. Mrs Cook had review sessions with Dr Tweedie on two occasions after the discharge, but there was no advice for follow-up treatments.
Mrs Cook then emigrated to Australia with her husband and their three young children, where she began to experience more abdominal pains. Her GP carried out tests and made the diagnosis of advanced bowel cancer that February. Mrs Cook then sought legal counsel, making a claim for her misdiagnosis by Dr Tweedie. She claimed that, due to difficulties in differentiating between infections of the lower abdomen and bowel cancer, Dr Tweedie should have been more thorough and conducted a colonoscopy. Had this shown that the patient had bowel cancer, she would have received adequate treatment to prevent metastasis – cancer spreading around the body.
However, before the case could commence, Dr Tweedie received a cancer diagnosis and died in July 2011. The claim followed through, lodged against his estate, and was settled for £125,000. Mrs Cook stated after the settlement that “We wouldn’t have moved our young family to the other side of the world, thousands of miles away from our parents and friends, had Dr Tweedie correctly diagnosed me”.