Losing a loved one that you’ve shared so many of life’s precious moments with is devastating.
Losing them as a direct result of avoidable medical negligence magnifies the distress and is something that nobody should ever have to experience.
Sadly, failures in the healthcare system do occur and they frequently lead to unnecessary suffering for both the individual and their family and friends.
In this story we hear from David Williams, who tragically lost his wife Delyth to cancer which developed after their local NHS Trust failed to repeat an X-ray.
David and Delyth Williams met whilst working together at a hotel in North Wales and enjoyed a happy 40-year marriage that produced three children and three grandchildren.
In June 2009, Delyth had a routine chest X-Ray whilst being treated for a lump on her neck, to check whether there were any potential underlying health problems.
Whilst the lump on Delyth’s neck was diagnosed as benign, the Radiologist’s report clearly recommended to repeat the X-Ray six weeks later as a potential lung lesion was identified. The radiologist did nothing further with his report and, rather than escalating, he merely filed it in his notes.
Mrs Williams’ benign cyst was surgically removed three months later in September 2009, but no further X-rays were arranged to check the suspected lesion as neither the notes nor the worrying x-ray were re-reviewed.
Delyth, David and their GP were unaware of the contents of the Radiologist’s report and had no reason to question her care further.
David said: “We’d been very worried about the lump, so it was a great relief when it was removed and Delyth had been given the all-clear. It meant that life could get back to normal again. Naturally it didn’t enter our head that there was anything we should be concerned about, you just believe what you’re told by the professionals.”
With no additional tests or treatment required, the couple and their family continued to live their lives, unaware that a serious and completely avoidable error had been made.
Four years later in June 2013, Mrs Williams began to feel unwell.
Struggling with flu-like symptoms, fatigue and voice loss she attended her GP surgery and was referred to Bangor Hospital for a chest X-Ray which took place in August 2013.
The X-Ray revealed something that nobody in the family was prepared for; Mrs Williams had lung cancer that was so advanced it was impossible to operate on.
David said: “I can’t really describe how shocked we were. We’d gone into hospital thinking it was a bad bout of flu, so to learn it was inoperable cancer hit us hard. When the truth was revealed, it was completely devastating.”
It was only upon receiving the cancer diagnosis that Delyth and David learned the contents of the Radiology report from June 2009 and realised the impact of the failure to check the suspected lesion.
Unsure as to how something like this could ever happen, an expert recommended that Delyth and David got in touch with Sara Stanger at Your Legal Friend.
Our highly experienced medical negligence team took up the case, gathering evidence to get to the bottom of what had gone so wrong.
Tragically for the Williams family, Delyth’s health deteriorated rapidly with chemotherapy unable to slow the spread of the cancer.
Mrs Williams sadly passed away on 6th July 2014 after suffering for ten months, knowing all the while her life was being cut short due to the negligence of someone else.
After Delyth’s passing, her husband David continued to fight for justice on her behalf.
Sara Stanger, the specialist lawyer at Your Legal Friend who supported Delyth and David throughout the case, said: “It was clear to us that if the error hadn’t been made during Delyth’s initial treatment, then it’s highly likely that the cancer would have been identified early, treated and cured.
“Instead it went unnoticed for four years until it was too late.
“Whilst hospitals and staff are under a significant amount of pressure, an error of this nature is simply unacceptable. It has led to severe and unnecessary suffering for Delyth and her loved ones.
“It is important that medical negligence cases are pursued so that those who suffer can seek redress and that healthcare providers admit their mistakes and learn from them.”
When the Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board looked over Delyth’s records it discovered the administrative error. The Radiologist who spotted the potential lung lesion in 2009 should have alerted the referring clinicians to his report by email, fax or some other means.
The Trust admitted full liability in October 2015. They also agreed that, had there not been a breach of duty to follow up the chest x-ray, then Delyth’s cancer would have been diagnosed, treatment given and she would have been cured.
David said: “We wanted answers. When we found out Delyth’s suffering was a result of someone failing to send an email or making a simple telephone call, we were extremely angry and upset.
“You literally place your life in their hands. It’s beyond me how something so important could be missed. Delyth had to deal with the fact that her situation was the fault of someone else and now the family have to live with the consequences of that oversight for the rest of our lives.”
“We managed to share some more moments together in the short time that we had left including a final holiday with the whole family but she should still be here now and it shouldn’t have been our last.
“When Delyth was going through her treatment, she told me that I should pursue the case to gain both answers and assurances that this would never happen again to anyone else.”
In Delyth’s case the NHS Trust admitted negligence and awarded David a significant sum in compensation. To honour Delyth’s final wishes, David is spending more time with his family and the cherished family dogs.
David said: “Whilst the case was ongoing and before Delyth passed away she said to me ‘Once I’m gone I want you to spend more time with the family and look after the two dogs. Enjoy your time with them’.
“We had hoped and expected to have many more years together but sadly that won’t happen now. I now have to try and stay strong for everyone and focus on doing as Delyth wished.’
“Your Legal Friend have been a huge help throughout this whole process and I can’t thank them enough. Sara came to visit me in my own home and immediately put me at ease.
“They are very, very professional and efficient. The team showed real compassion and sensitivity and I would highly recommend them.”
Whilst Delyth’s case involved a preventable oversight, a misdiagnosis or delay in treatment can happen for many reasons. Below are a few tips to help ensure that you receive the high standard of care you deserve: