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Payout for family of woman who died after misdiagnosis

By Somerset Standard  |  Posted: October 20, 2011

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"We will never get over what our mother went through in her final days."

Those are the words of Martin Redfern, the son of Margaret Joan Redfern, 75, of Coleford, who died of rectal cancer just over a year after a doctor at the NHS Treatment Centre in Shepton Mallet had diagnosed her problems as inflammation of the bowel.

Somerset PCT has agreed to pay the family substantial damages in an out-of-court settlement.

Mr Redfern, who did not wish to disclose the amount awarded, said: "The money means nothing to us, what we want is an apology and a public inquiry into what happened at the treatment centre where my mother was misdiagnosed."

Mrs Redfern, who was known to her friends as Joan, had first visited the Shepton Mallet Treatment Centre in August 2007 after suffering digestive problems and anaemia.

She underwent a colonoscopy so that doctors could ascertain what the problem was and was diagnosed with an inflammatory disease and given a course of treatment.

But due to ongoing problems she was admitted to Bath's Royal United Hospital in January 2008 and was then told the devastating news she had rectal cancer. She died in October 2008.

A review into 1,828 colonoscopies performed on NHS patients referred to the centre between June 2005 and March 2008 was carried out in April 2009. But it concluded that there was no evidence to support any suggestions of misdiagnosis and that no action should be taken in relation to Dutch consultant Ben Mak, who undertook the majority of colonoscopies at the centre up until March 2008.

Mr Mak detected cancer in 34 of 1, 828 low-risk patients whom he examined between October 1, 2005 and March 31, 2008.

Six patients in whom he did not detect cancer were later found to have the disease. The doctor was suspended during the investigation and later resigned.

Mr Redfern approached solicitors, Devonshires, to fight for damages in September last year and settled the claim earlier this month.

Mr Redfern said: "I find it hard to believe the PCT can hand over money but can't give us a simple apology.

"I want a public enquiry into what went wrong at the treatment centre at the very least. A medical expert that examined the case on behalf of our solicitors said that mum could have lived into her 80s if she had been diagnosed earlier.

"I am still very bitter and angry at what has happened andI don't think any of us will ever get over it – it has destroyed our family."

Senior solicitor at Devonshires, Liz Bryant, who brought the claim for the bereaved family said no amount of money could ease the family's suffering.

She said: "If the cancer had been diagnosed in August 2007, Mrs Redfern would have been able to undergo surgery and chemotherapy and could have made a total recovery.

"We have been able to assist the family in finding some sort of closure but no amount of money will bring Mrs Redfern back to them."

A spokesman for Somerset PCT said: "The family of the late Mrs Redfern have brought legal proceedings against Somerset Primary Care Trust in respect of her treatment in August 2007.

"Although no admission of liability has been made, the Primary Care Trust is pleased that a resolution has been achieved and wish the family the best for the future."

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