Payout for leg amputation mistake

Michele Paduano

A woman has been paid more than £100,000 in an out-of-court settlement after her leg was amputated unnecessarily because a lump was mistaken for cancer.

Doreen Nicholls, from Halesowen, in the West Midlands, was being treated at the Royal Orthopaedic Hospital in Birmingham for the lump, which had appeared on her foot after surgery to have two toes shortened.

The lump was actually a rare swelling of the lining of a joint, but it was mistaken for a rare and aggressive soft tissue cancer.

A biopsy was taken and cancer diagnosed. The 72-year-old was told that she needed a below-the-knee amputation of her left leg and underwent surgery on 10 October 2007.

It was only after further tests were carried out on the lump after surgery that it was discovered that there was no cancer.

Mrs Nicholls said: “They called me back after the operation and the surgeon said: ‘I’ve got a bombshell to tell you — I’m very sorry, but we shouldn’t have taken the leg off.’ I just came home and cried and cried. It was just devastating.”

Tim Deeming, a medical negligence solicitor acting for Ms. Nicholls, said he believed the hospital had “completely failed” in its duty of care to her.

He added: “This is not the usual story of an error by an inexperienced, junior medic, but of a group of clinical experts — three of them world-renowned in their particular fields.

The Royal Orthopaedic Hospital denied its actions in this case had been negligent, but said it was pleased for Ms. Nicholls that the matter was settled without the need for expensive and distressing litigation. The trust said it was “deeply sorry” about the outcome of her treatment and was continuing to review her progress.

Since the award, Mrs. Nicholls has been able to buy a new prosthetic leg, which she said had reduced the pain. However, she said that if she had been offered a million pounds, she would still prefer to have her leg. — © BBC News/Distributed by the New York Times Syndicate