Woman Dies Of Cancer After Doctors Allegedly Failed 30 Times to Detect Her Cervical Cancer

In my torts class, we often discussed the factual and proximate causation issues concerning the failure to diagnose illness like types of cancer before they metastasize.   Those causation questions are a bit more severe in the case of  Jeannine Harvey, a mother of four who died after doctors missed her advanced cervical cancer 30 times according to her family.


The 33 year old mother was repeatedly told that she was merely experiencing anxiety, nerve pain and even a torn ligament as the cancer continued to spread. When doctors finally diagnosed Jeannine’s uterine cancer, it had progressed to the point that it actually shattered her pelvic bone.

What is particularly disturbing is that pre-cancerous cells had been removed from her cervix in 2010 and a routine scan was done a couple years later. That scan showed a 2in (5cm) lump in her pelvis, but doctors did not find it in a prior surgery.

Her sister, Marie Donovan, 34, offered one heartbreaking account of how Jeannine at one point begged on her knees for doctors to take the case more seriously.

While ultrasound scans revealed an over one-inch mass on the left of her pelvis, the hospital said that it had mysteriously disappeared and was probably just a cyst. She collapsed a few days later.

Malpractice in Britain is far less prevalent than in the United States. The United States has almost ten times more medical malpractice lawsuits than Great Britain, which has a number of pro-defendant doctrines and barriers presented by the National Health Service.

Even if Jeannine was advanced in her cancer, the U.S. courts also recognize the tort of “loss of chance” in the failure to diagnose disease even where there was less than a fifty percent chance of survival. Some English courts have proven hostile to such claims as in Gregg v Scott [2005] UKHL 2; [2005] 2 WLR 268, where a court rejected such a claim for a man whose chances of surviving non-Hodgkins Lymphoma was reduced from 42% to 25% due to a failure to diagnose the illness.

U.S. courts have found the requirement of at least a 50 percent survivability line to be too severe. One of the first opinions was handed down in 2008 by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court in Matsuyama v. Birnbaum. That case involved a patient who complained about gastric distress and was diagnosed as gastritis. He had gastric cancer and died later. His family sued and the court ruled that the requirement of a better than fifty percent survivability was a view rejected by an increasing number of courts and experts.

I have long been critical of the English system that tends to favor defendants with such rules as the “English Rule” imposing costs on the losing party in litigation. Malpractice is another area where I view the system as lacking effective deterrence and basic fairness, though many of my friends in England would argue that they view our system as being too prone to litigation.

Source: BBC

27 thoughts on “Woman Dies Of Cancer After Doctors Allegedly Failed 30 Times to Detect Her Cervical Cancer

  1. Matt, LOL, It is a great failing of our marvelous technology that a spell checking program will not save you if you spell the wrong word correctly🙂

  2. My mother die of a iatrogenic illness, cancer, that would not carry any liability because of the “proximate cause” issue, but it is an interesting one in terms of health care for women. In early 1940s my mother saw a doctor for fatigue and depression. He tried an experimental treatment consisting of shooting high doses of radiation directly into her thyroid. The doctors were testing this, informally, on their female patients — thinking it would cheer the women up. All the women who got those treatments developed cancer of the thyroid within 25 years. Then there’s a thyroidectomy. Then there are other cancerous events — associated with the cancer of the thyroid — then then and then and so forth. In the end, because my mom was a teacher and had good insurance, she had seven operations, only the last two of them being completely useless (and, looking back at it, I’d say they were just done to charge the money for them).

    The experience I had with my mother taught me that when someone is hospitalized, a family member or friend should go to hospital with them and try to stay 24/7 to make sure things go OK. Even a friend of mine who IS a physician takes me along when she has to go to the hospital, fearing mishap. I have learned how to do the medical advocacy thing, at times to my own chagrin. [BTW, there IS no way to do an analogous thing with lawyers and judges that you can do with doctors and nurses. You’re flying blind with the lawyers and judges and god help you.]

    My mom wasn’t just ignored in the health care system. She was exploited. I had no desire to add lawyers to doctors in the end, though — just wanted to learn from experience and go on from there. Some of my best friends are doctors. Some of my best friends are lawyers.

    I need some friends who are Indian Chiefs. :mrgreen:

  3. bettykath,
    my mother was instructed to go to the emergency room of her hospital a few years ago because of severe problems with her meds and they refused to admit her. We took her to a new hospital and if we hadn’t she might have died. I will never step foot in that first hospital again.

  4. I stood in the ER after New Years after waiting two months to be called for further exam after my diagnosis as a AV 3 block was sent to them. I said you have my papers, I am not going home. I don’t think you dare.

    ER called up and acquiesced and sent me up where the heart people put a radio connected heart monitor on me. The next morning the rounds doctor came ans showed me the printout of one incident recorded under the night. My heart had stopped for 6 seconds. That is, left chamber activity. I got a pacemaker two days later. It was a weekend and I was not acute. Just goes to show. What? You decide.

    AV? Atrium-ventricular block. The sinus nerve pulse does not go on to the the left chamber which pumps the oxygen rich blood to the body.

  5. My Nieces Maxine died last year age 26 for over two year she was going back and forward to the doctor and the A@E they said it was all in her head and she was suffering from depression she begged and begged them to check her stomach as something was getting bigger in it.
    They told her if she phoned 999 again she was getting charged but she just could not suffer the pain no more a phoned 999 they were not happy to see her again and told her they were going to discharge her as she was fine she had got out the bed and grubbed the doctors leg and begged him to do a scan and show her it was all in her head they said it would take time and money but if we wanted to wait about for 4 hours he would do it.
    And guess what surprise surprise she had stomach cancer and it was to late for them to do any thing about it she died a few weeks later 2 days before her wedding day leaving two young boys she went to the doctor and the hospital begging them to listen to hear well over 30 what they told me sorry it not like a young girl her age to get stomach cancer

  6. If they would quit spending billions on crappy immigrants and hiring doctors who got their degree from some crap shack in Africa (including one who didn’t even know how to give CPR) and spend it on their PAID FOR by the people socialist care medical system, maybe people wouldn’t die all the time. I read cases like this related to NHS every day and I read that a 76 year old man was approved for a sex change operation (free) but a 4 year old girl was denied surgery that would help alleviate chronic pain associated with some bone syndrome she has because ‘it wouldn’t totally stop the pain and wasn’t worth the cost.’

    England is messed up with it’s priorities.

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