£480,000 settlement for additional sight-loss from delayed diagnosis of craniopharyngioma

Boyes Turner’s medical negligence lawyers have achieved a £480,000 settlement for a boy whose inevitable sight-loss from a rare, benign brain tumour was worsened by a six-month delay in diagnosis.

Delayed diagnosis

The two-year-old boy’s mother took him to the defendant high street optician for an eye test on the advice of her GP and health visitor. She was concerned that her son had a squint and couldn’t see the television. The correct procedure for examining a toddler would have been to carry out retinoscopy under cycloplegia (paralysis of the ciliary muscle of the eye), however, the optician incorrectly used an auto-refractor and subjective testing and then misinterpreted the boy’s failure to respond to the tests as lack of cooperation when, in fact, he was suffering from blindness. The optician told the mother to bring the boy back for a further eye test when he was older and would be able to cooperate.

The optician examined the boy again five months later and, ignoring the mother’s repeated concerns, made the same diagnosis.  This time our client’s mother refused to accept the diagnosis and persuaded the optician to refer the boy back to his GP. The GP referred him to hospital where he was examined by an ophthalmologist who immediately detected optic atrophy – damage to the optic nerve, which must also have been present during the defendant optician’s previous examination. Our client underwent an urgent MRI scan which confirmed the presence of a craniopharyngioma with a cyst pressing on the optic nerve. This was causing the boy’s loss of vision.  

Our client underwent surgical marsupialization of the craniopharyngioma, an operation to drain the cyst and relieve the pressure on the optic nerve, but he had already sustained permanent damage and is now registered blind.

Claim

We pursued our client’s claim supported by our experts’ opinions that a degree of the boy’s blindness was caused by a six-month delay in diagnosis of the craniopharyngioma arising from the optician’s negligent eye examination. Whilst our client would have inevitably suffered some loss of vision from the brain tumour, our experts believed that it was the negligent delay which put him into the category of ‘Braille user’ needing specialist education, whereas with timely diagnosis and treatment he would have retained enough vision to be able to read, recognise faces and mobilise more safely, and with support, remain in a mainstream education setting.  The defendant admitted that the optician’s failure to carry out an adequate eye examination had led to five to six months’ delay in diagnosis and treatment of the tumour but denied that the delay exacerbated the blindness which, they said, would have arisen from the tumour even if correctly treated. 

We entered judgment and obtained an interim payment of £10,000 to meet the claimant’s urgent need for a BrailleNote computer and pay for assistance with rehabilitation, communication and special needs education.

Settlement

As the case proceeded to an assessment of damages hearing, the defendant maintained their defensive stance and denied that they should pay any compensation at all, on the basis that our client’s needs would have been the same in any event. Meanwhile, our own experts also maintained their opinions, and when settlement negotiations took place at a round table meeting, we secured a settlement of £480,000 for our client, which was subsequently approved by the court.

If you or a member of your family have suffered serious disability caused by medical negligence, contact us by email at medneg@boyesturner.com.

The service was personal, professional and considered. I was treated so kindly and in the end I knew that not only had I found the right organisation but also the right person.

Boyes Turner client

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