Woman whose endometriosis went undiagnosed for 15 years wins £0.5m pay-outBMJ 2020; 370 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.m3254 (Published 18 August 2020) Cite this as: BMJ 2020;370:m3254
A woman whose endometriosis was undiagnosed for nearly 15 years has won £500 000 (€553 000; $659 000) compensation from the NHS in an out-of-court settlement.
Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust agreed to settle the claim by Frances Bell, 37, after admitting that a laparoscopy should have been performed in 2001, when she was 18.
She had first attended a gynaecology appointment with symptoms of endometriosis in 1997 at the age of 14. In 2014 the pain became so severe that she went to the emergency department and was referred for further assessments.
When a laparoscopy was finally carried out in 2015, when she was 31, she was found to have stage IV endometriosis that had spread around her ovary and bowel and caused multiple adhesions. She was left unable to conceive naturally and was told that she would need to undergo in vitro fertilisation to do so. Fortunately, it was successful, and she had a son in 2018.
Bell, who has premature ovarian failure, will still have to undergo a hysterectomy and bowel resection, which carries risks of complications. She has been told that she will still experience urgency with defecation and urination, chronic pelvic pain, and bladder pain.
At her gynaecology appointment in 2001 she mentioned that she had researched endometriosis and that her symptoms seemed to match the condition.
“Via social media, I have spoken to dozens of other women who felt they have been grossly let down in similar circumstances,” she said. “Often, like me, they had diagnosed themselves perfectly, yet no one would take them seriously.” Doctors were “condescending” about her in letters on her medical file, she added.
Her solicitor, Stephen Jones from the law firm Leigh Day, said, “It was quite shocking to me that Frances’s complaints were not taken seriously at the outset. She was treated quite patronisingly and as a result her endometriosis was left to become much more severe, and that has adversely affected her life in many ways.”