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Family of patient who died during a clinical trial receive a six figure settlement

BMJ 2012; 345 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.e7793 (Published 15 November 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;345:e7793
  1. Clare Dyer
  1. 1BMJ

The family of a patient who died during a clinical trial at the Royal Marsden Hospital in London to test a five drug combination for treating testicular cancer has won a six figure sum in an out-of-court settlement.

Gareth Kingdon, 39, was the first patient to die from side effects during the multicentre TE23 trial, which was funded by the Medical Research Council to compare treatment of poor prognosis testicular cancer by five drugs instead of the standard three drug regime.

The family of another patient in the trial, 27-year-old Gary Foster, who was treated at University College London Hospital (UCLH), received a settlement in 2010. He was given a double dose of bleomycin on seven occasions after the chemotherapy regime was incorrectly set up on UCLH’s electronic prescribing system, and died from lung failure in October 2007 after medical staff failed to recognise the warning signs of lung damage.

Gareth Kingdon was given the intended dose of the drugs, but his lawyers argued that radiology and oncology staff at the Royal Marsden failed to heed warning signs that his lungs were affected and carried on giving him bleomycin, when he might have survived if the drug had been stopped. He died in December 2006, leaving a wife and baby son.

Gary Foster’s parents filed a complaint with the General Medical Council against principal investigator Stephen Harland, described during the GMC hearing as “the father of urological oncology” in the UK. The GMC panel found Harland guilty of misconduct in not adequately implementing trial protocols or safely administering the trial, but decided that his fitness to practise was not impaired.1

The panel said that significant lessons had been learnt as a result of the case, including by research bodies, and that procedures now in place were likely to have made trials much safer for cancer patients.

Mark Bowman of the law firm Field Fisher Waterhouse, who acted for both families, said that patients taking part in trials had a legitimate expectation that they would be treated according to the protocols but that the protocols had not been followed. Patients were told that weekly x rays would be taken but they were not in either case, he said.

Bowman also acted for another patient who received an overdose at UCLH but survived and received a smaller settlement. He said that neither the Foster nor Kingdon families wanted to reveal how much compensation they had received, but in each case it was a six figure sum.

A spokeswoman for the Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust said in a statement, “The trust did not accept liability in relation to the claim made, and a defence was served after having obtained expert evidence which supported the trust’s actions.

“The claim was ultimately settled on a substantially discounted litigation risk basis as it was not possible to determine whether the bleomycin treatment ought to have been stopped earlier and whether or not this would have made any difference to the outcome.”

Notes

Cite this as: BMJ 2012;345:e7793

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