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Written by Julie Marsh

Boyes Turner’s medical negligence lawyers have secured an £800,000 compensation settlement for the bereaved partner and children of a 28-year-old woman. The young mother died from ovarian cancer and its spread (metastasis) to other areas of her body, after years of negligent failure by the defendant hospital to correctly diagnose and remove an ovarian cyst.

Misinterpreted scans, no follow up and delays

During the young woman’s first pregnancy, ultrasound scans revealed a cyst on her right ovary. Her first scan was carried out through both the abdomen and the vagina. This was necessary to provide an accurate scan result as her BMI was extremely high. Initially the cyst was noted to be 5.6cm, increasing to 6.5cm in size on her second scan. The cyst was incorrectly described as a ‘simple’ cyst. In fact, she had a more dangerous, ‘complex’ cyst, which is more likely to be malignant, but this early misdiagnosis was repeated throughout her treatment.

She was told that the cyst would be followed up after her child was born. She should have been followed up every year and referred for an MRI scan or surgery if the cyst grew beyond 7cm. However, no further scans took place until her second pregnancy, five years later. At that time, she was scanned through the abdomen only and the scan was reported incorrectly as showing a 10cm x 8cm cyst on the left side. A further scan then incorrectly reported a right-sided ‘simple’ cyst which now measured 12.3 x 11.6 x 8.7 cm. Arrangements were made for ultrasound guided aspiration (draining of fluid) of the cyst, but this was cancelled because her case hadn’t been discussed by the gynaecological multidisciplinary team (MDT). Instead of referring her back to her consultant for MDT review, no further follow up took place.

More than two years later, her physiotherapist noted that her abdomen was abnormally swollen. A pregnancy test at that time was negative and a new scan again reported a large simple cyst. The cyst now measured 20.9 x 16.6 x 24.6 cm and produced ‘low level echoes’ on the scan, which should have alerted the radiologist to the fact that this was a complex cyst. An MDT meeting incorrectly referred the young woman for a non-urgent gynaecology assessment, instead of referring her for an urgent MRI scan and urgent surgery. When her assessment finally took place, she was referred for surgical removal of the cyst and the right ovary and fallopian tube.

On the day of her surgery, two months later, she had a positive pregnancy test, but a transvaginal scan showed a right ovarian mass and an empty uterus. She was not pregnant, but the test result indicated that there had been rapid growth of her cyst in the short time since her last (negative) pregnancy test. The surgeon found a large, deflated, ovarian cyst. Eight litres of fluid from the cyst were drained but there was no evidence of disease in the surrounding area. Soon after the operation, the young woman was admitted to hospital with sudden shortness of breath and haemoptysis (coughing up blood). CT scans revealed metastatic spread of the cancer in her lung, and widespread disease in the abdominal and pelvic area. After an initial, incorrect diagnosis, she was referred to a tertiary (higher level) hospital where she was finally diagnosed with choriocarcinoma, a malignant advanced tumour. She had emergency chemotherapy but a CT scan later revealed that the cancer had spread to her brain, lungs and abdomen. She suffered cerebral oedema (brain swelling) and raised intra-cranial pressure. She died soon afterwards after being admitted to hospital with pneumonia.

Multiple errors in medical care

Throughout this young woman’s treatment at the defendant hospital, multiple errors were made in her care. These mistakes included failure to follow her up after the birth of her first child when she was known to have an ovarian cyst. If they had done so, concerns about her growing cyst would have led to earlier surgical intervention. Opportunities to diagnose and treat her potentially malignant ‘complex’ cyst were repeatedly missed as a result of incorrect scanning techniques and misinterpretation of her scans. Delays in referrals to and from the MDT and for surgery all contributed to growth and deadly spread of her cancer, which she should have avoided. Our medical experts believed that will correct treatment she would have gone on to live a near normal lifespan for someone with her other health conditions.

We pursued a claim for compensation for the deceased young woman’s partner and their children. We secured an admission of liability and an interim payment of £20,000 to ease the family’s financial hardship whilst we worked with her partner, former employer and our experts to value the claim. During settlement negotiations, we rejected the defendant’s initial offer of £700,000, and secured an agreed settlement of £800,000, which included compensation for the deceased’s unnecessary pain and suffering, her family’s loss of dependency on her income and ‘services’ (maternal childcare, household tasks etc), funeral expenses and other losses. The court approved the settlement and apportionment of the compensation between her partner and each of the children.

If you, or a member of your family, have suffered serious injury as a result of medical negligence, you can find out more about making a claim by contacting our expert lawyers by email at