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Misdiagnosis widower wins compensation

Posted in: Medical Negligence 

A widower from Aberystwyth, Ceredigion has been awarded compensation for the loss of his wife after her cancer was misdiagnosed as an ear infection. Kathleen Howe, aged 67, died on 29 July 2012 after being wrongly diagnosed with otitis extern, commonly known as ‘swimmer’s ear’. Following her death, an investigation found that there was a 90-100% chance that she would have survived if Bronglais Hospital staff had correctly diagnosed her symptoms.

Mrs Howe initially visited her GP after experiencing dizziness. Having previously worked at Bronglais Hospital as a domestic assistant for 30 years, her GP referred her where hospital staff diagnosed her with an ear infection and prescribed ear-drops.

When Mrs Howe’s condition continued to worsen, she returned to the hospital on multiple occasions. Eventually, in July 2011, Mrs Howe underwent surgery to have granulation tissue removed from her ear. The tissue was sent for a biopsy, but the results were not shared with either Mrs Howe or her GP.

Unnecessary delays

In September 2011, Mrs Howe was admitted to Glangwili Hospital in Carmarthenshire when the pain became unbearable. Following a CT scan, an MRI scan and a repeat biopsy, it was determined that Mrs Howe had a cancerous tumour, known as squamous cell carcinoma. Despite treatment, her condition continued to worsen and she died in June 2012.

It was heard that an ear, nose and throat expert and an oncology expert who looked into the case following Mrs Howe’s death concluded that there were unnecessary delays in diagnosing and treating the cancer. The lawyer representing Mrs Howe’s case, Sarah Davies, said that the initial biopsy results should have been enough to have her treated for cancer far earlier. She said: “If that had happened, Mrs Howe would have been able to have surgery and radiotherapy and would have survived.

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