Terminally Ill Mum Settles Claim for the Misdiagnosis of Bowel Cancer

A terminally ill mother of three has settled her claim for the misdiagnosis of bowel cancer against the estate of her former consultant surgeon.

Emma Cook (41) from Stanbridge in Bedfordshire, emigrated to Australia with her husband Jonathan in 2010; months after being discharged by her former consultant surgeon – Dr James Tweedie – without the doctor completing the full range of investigations into a mass that had been identified close to Emma´s appendix.

Emma had first attended her GP in November 2009, complaining of intermittent abdominal pain. Her GP diagnosed her with a urinary tract infection and prescribed antibiotics. However, her symptoms developed into fever, vomiting and diarrhoea, and she was referred to the A&E Department at Stoke Mandeville Hospital.

At Stoke Mandeville Hospital, Emma was examined by consultant surgeon Dr James Tweedie, who suspected that her symptoms could either be caused by a urinary tract infection, an ovarian cyst or appendicitis. He arranged for an ultrasound that identified a mass around the appendix, and Emma was put on intravenous antibiotic treatment ahead of a planned appendectomy.

However, the antibiotic treatment eased Emma´s symptoms and she was discharged from hospital on 1st December 2009 without the appendectomy being conducted. Emma was reviewed by Dr Tweedie on 8th December and 5th January 2010 before being discharged from his care, but with no follow-up treatment advised.

After Emma and her young family moved to Australia, Emma started experiencing the intermittent abdominal pain again. She visited her GP, who conducted more thorough tests than Dr Tweedie, and was diagnosed with the advanced stages of bowel cancer in February 2011. Emma sought legal advice and made a claim for the misdiagnosis of bowel cancer against Dr Tweedie.

In the claim for the misdiagnosis of bowel cancer it was alleged that, as it is impossible to differentiate between an infection of the lower abdomen and bowel cancer, Dr Tweedie should have conducted a colonoscopy to eliminate the possibility of the latter. Had a colonoscopy revealed that Emma was suffering from bowel cancer, she could have received treatment that would have prevented the cancer spreading to the rest of her body.

Before the legal action could commence, Dr Tweedie himself succumbed to cancer and died in July 2011. The claim for the misdiagnosis of bowel cancer was then made against the former consultant surgeon´s estate and recently settled for £125,000; after which Emma said: “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”.