Doctors negligent in late wife's cancer case

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The Independent Online

A husband won his late wife's legal battle yesterday to prove doctors were medically negligent in their treatment of her breast cancer.

A husband won an important victory in his late wife's legal battle yesterday by proving doctors were negligent in their treatment of her breast cancer.

Helen Cooper, who had two children, died five days after she gave evidence on 21 September in the High Court about the failure of doctors to diagnose the disease. Her husband, Mick, vowed to continue with the case. Yesterday, he won the first stage of her claim when a judge ruled doctors had breached their duty of care to her by failing to give her a second breast biopsy after a first had shown abnormal results in July 2000.

Mr Justice Butterfield said that Mrs Cooper's case had then "appeared to have been effectively forgotten for many months" by consultants at the Bath Royal United Hospital.

She was not diagnosed with cancer until May 2002. Despite intensive treatment the cancer was so advanced that by this year, it had spread to her liver and bones. The court case had to be brought forward after it became clear the 51-year-old NHS health worker was dying.

Outside the Royal Courts of Justice yesterday, Mr Cooper, a nuclear engineer from Chippenham, Wiltshire, said: "I'm very, very pleased for my wife. I hope this will lead to standardised procedures in the NHS. Everyone should get top priority service. We pay for it."

The ruling is only the first stage of the case. The judge will rule later on whether Mrs Cooper's cancer would have been diagnosed if the second biopsy had been performed, and if compensation should be paid.