The reality of delayed cancer diagnosis and the law

Somerset County Gazette: Ashfords partner Jason Squire Ashfords partner Jason Squire

PRESS coverage about an Italian oncologist allegedly struck off for routinely attempting to treat cancer with baking soda has been met with ridicule, but brings attention to the more serious issue of how some members of the medical profession treat and diagnose cancer.

Sadly, evidence tells us that cancer is on the increase, but the good news is that more and more people are surviving and going on to lead normal, healthy lives.

However, there is more to be achieved. Alarmingly, the UK is ranked 22nd for female cancer mortality rates out of 27 European countries.

The Department of Health's Cancer Reform Strategy (2007) suggests late or missed diagnosis is a major contributor to the UK's ranking.

Delayed diagnosis can occur for many reasons, not all of them obvious or avoidable, but when a health practitioner negligently fails to diagnose cancer the consequences can be far-reaching and the law seeks to provide redress.

The most obvious and solemn consequence of a misdiagnosis is a death that may otherwise have been preventable.

Even when a patient goes on to beat cancer, the negative impact of a late diagnosis on the their quality of life can be overwhelming, often due to the physical and psychological impact of more toxic treatments required to treat cancer that has been allowed to progress to an advanced stage.

As head of the litigation department at Ashfords' Taunton office, Jason Squire has assisted a number of patients over the years who have suffered a worse prognosis and a reduced quality of life through late or incorrect diagnosis of cancer.

However, in his experience it is possible to achieve significant settlements for patients who have suffered a negligent delay in the correct diagnosis of cancer.

Every doctor owes his or her patients a duty of care, and if the doctor's actions are such that they would not be supported by a responsible body of doctors, that doctor is negligent in the eyes of the law.

Failing to recognise the symptoms of cancer, make timely referrals or act on test results can have devastating effects on cancer patients, leading to additional pain, suffering, distress, unnecessary invasive procedures and in the very worst cases the premature death of a patient.

It is important to be aware that there are strict legal time limits for bringing a claim, so it is essential that anyone who has suffered due to a delayed diagnosis or misdiagnosis of cancer, and wants to make a claim, gets in touch as soon as possible.

Anyone affected by a delayed cancer diagnosis can contact Jason Squire at Ashfords by email at j.squire@ashfords.co.uk or call 01823-232338.

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