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Criticism as cancer test victim wins £2m payout

A WOMAN who was left unable to have children after a delayed cancer diagnosis has been awarded more than £2 million in damages against a health board.

surgery: Dr Helen McGlone launched a claim for negligence over smear tests. Picture: Stewart Attwood
surgery: Dr Helen McGlone launched a claim for negligence over smear tests. Picture: Stewart Attwood

The sum, however, fell far short of the £20m being sought by Helen McGlone against NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde after the judge found she had "exaggerated" her case.

Dr McGlone claimed she could have avoided having a radical hysterectomy if two smear tests had been correctly interpreted years earlier.

The 33-year-old, who is originally from Falkirk, launched a court action claiming the board's failure to diagnose pre-cancerous cells and her subsequent surgery damaged her prospects of a lucrative City career.

Dr McGlone, who has a PhD in particle physics and studied at Cern, the world-renowned research facility in Geneva, said she expected to have a long and successful career in investment banking, but was left physically incapable of working.

During the case at the Court of Session, Dr McGlone claimed she continued to suffer from extreme bowel problems, vomiting and fatigue and argued her future employment opportunities had been blighted by her condition.

However, Judge Lord Bannatyne found she had "exaggerated" both points and awarded her £2.34m instead of the £20m she was seeking. Interest on the sum and an award on a number of minor issues will be decided at a later date.

In a written judgment on the case, Lord Bannatyne said: "[Ms McGlone's] evidence throughout, it appeared to me, when speaking about the effects on her of the index event, was materially exaggerated."

He added: "I believe the area in relation to which [her] evidence was most exaggerated, either consciously or unconsciously, related to her ability to do any further work.

"As regards what [she] is capable of doing, I note that according to the evidence - she is capable of doing a broad range of jobs."

The judge also heavily criticised Dr McGlone's conduct throughout the court hearing, stating she showed "complete and utter disrespect" for the court and was "excessively confrontational".

Following a number of disruptive incidents, Lord Bannatyne threatened to ban her from the proceedings should she misbehave again.

Ms McGlone said she was still working through the detail of the judgment.

She added: "Only someone who has suffered a serious cancer and the resulting treatment can truly appreciate the pain, fear and loss that come with it.

"I was fortunate in that I survived, but I certainly had to fight hard to do so. This case is about protecting other women from an atrocious, preventable cancer and I will continue to do everything I can for them."

Dr McGlone was diagnosed with cervical cancer after a general health check in Geneva in January 2008.

She said Swiss doctors were surprised to discover she had cervical cancer as previous tests in December 2005 and March 2006 had not alerted Scottish medics to the symptoms.

By that time her tumour had reached a stage where a hysterectomy was the only option.

NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde admitted mistakes were made at Glasgow's Royal Infirmary and the Sandyford Clinic, but contested the action by claiming they had no bearing on Dr McGlone's eventual treatment because her cancer was already at an advanced stage.

A court ruling last year found the health board was at fault and allowed Dr McGlone to pursue damages.

A statement by her lawyers, Gildeas Solicitors, released after yesterday's judgment, said: "We are astonished by this decision issued today, based on the witnesses who gave evidence in this lengthy case, and we are considering an appeal.

"In fact, it falls short of being a complete judgment as there is no bottom-line figure and there remain multiple open issues.

"Dr McGlone is a young woman of integrity and kindness who has pursued this very difficult litigation through concern for other young women."

A spokesman for the law firm also claimed a number of other women have since come forward with negligence cases arising from cervical screening at a number of hospitals since reading about its client's case.

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