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Written on 13th September 2021 by Julie Marsh

Boyes Turner’s medical negligence team obtained a £250,000 settlement for a widow whose husband developed stage 4 cancer and died after two GPs misdiagnosed his malignant melanoma (skin cancer) as a verruca.

Misdiagnosis and delayed referral lead to advanced skin cancer

Our client’s husband sought advice from his GP (the first defendant) after noticing a 1cm x 1cm black pigmented lesion on the sole of his foot. The doctor examined the lesion and diagnosed a verruca. He recommended the man treat it with over-the-counter verruca medication, advising that it could take a long time to eradicate. No advice was given about seeking  further medical help if the over-the-counter medication did not work, and nothing was noted in the medical records about the lesion.

Our client’s husband attempted to treat the lesion as recommended by the GP but none of the verruca treatments were effective. Over time the lesion protruded above the surrounding skin, which became dry and cracked. Attempts to cut back the assumed verruca failed.

Seven months after the first consultation, he saw another GP (second defendant) about a lump, and also showed the second GP the lesion, which had not changed after unsuccessful treatments with over-the-counter verruca medication.  The second GP examined the lesion, advised that it was a verruca and recommended some over-the-counter verruca medication. Again, no advice was given to return if that treatment didn’t work.

Our client followed the GP’s advice but saw another GP a year later after the protruding lesion had become painful to walk on. This doctor was concerned about the appearance of the lesion and referred him urgently for a dermatological assessment at the hospital. At the assessment three weeks later, he was referred for an urgent biopsy, which revealed the lesion was a stage 3 malignant melanoma. A palpable lymph node was also found in his groin. He then had an operation to remove the melanoma and take lymph node biopsies. The pathology reports confirmed that the lesion was now stage 4 invasive melanoma and one of the lymph nodes revealed metastatic melanoma. He needed further surgery to clear the lymph nodes from his groin and reconstruct the bottom of his foot. He developed a post-operative infection.

In the months after discharge from hospital he suffered severe swelling from lymphoedema. This reduced his mobility and affected his ability to work. He then suffered a recurrence of the cancer but was unable to continue with immunotherapy owing to infection. He died after a series of lengthy hospital admissions during which he needed opiate painkillers to manage his constant pain.

Helping the deceased’s widow make a claim

We helped his widow pursue a claim for compensation against the two GPs who had failed to recognise her husband’s signs of melanoma. We put the claim to the GPs on the basis that the lesion was a surgically treatable melanoma in its early stages at the time of their consultations. Their misdiagnosis of the lesion as a verruca and failure to refer him for urgent dermatological assessment led to his suffering from biopsies, groin dissections, infections and lymphoedema. The delay in referral, diagnosis and treatment ultimately caused his death.

We issued court proceedings. The two GP defendants denied that they had been negligent but entered into settlement negotiations as the case progressed. The case concluded with an out-of-court settlement for our client of just over £250,000.

Our Client said, "Thank you for everything you have done on this case, I am so grateful it came to a happy conclusion and that came from all your hard work. Has been a pleasure dealing with you over the last nearly 6 years. You have given fantastic support and guidance."

If you have suffered severe injury or the loss of a loved one as a result of medical negligence, you can talk to one of our specialist solicitors, free and confidentially, by contacting us here.