Cancer victim death inquiry scrapped

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The Independent Online

An inquiry into the case of a teenage cancer victim who received an accidental overdose of radiation was scrapped today after medical experts agreed there was no link between the mistake and her death.

Lisa Norris, from Girvan, Ayrshire, died at the age of 16 in October 2006 from a type of brain cancer.

During her treatment at the Beatson Oncology Centre in Glasgow, she was given 19 radiation overdoses which left her with burns on the back of her neck and head.

An inquiry into the circumstances of her death was due to begin at Glasgow Sheriff Court today.

But it will no longer go ahead after experts agreed there was no link between the accident and Lisa's death.

The centre has already taken steps to review and improve its systems, the court heard.

Area procurator fiscal Lesley Thomson said: "The medical experts, who are all in full possession of the facts and the initial differing opinions, have ultimately concluded that there is no causal link between the radiation overdose and Lisa's death."

Lisa was diagnosed with cancer in August 2005 and underwent chemotherapy at the Yorkhill Sick Children's Hospital.

She received radiotherapy treatment at the Beatson between January 5 and 31 the following year.

Government ministers appointed Dr Arthur Johnston to investigate after the error by NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde was discovered.

The expert's report revealed that an under-qualified and under-trained member of staff entered a wrong number on a form.

Lisa's death was also looked into by the health board and by representatives for her parents, Ken and Liz Norris.

They announced that they would take legal action after a report by Professor Karol Sikora concluded that, if Lisa had been given the correct treatment, she would have survived for a further five years.

Ms Thomson said today that there was no longer any "controversy" surrounding her death.

She told Sheriff Principal James Taylor: "One expert thought there was a link between the accidental overdose of radiation and Lisa's death.

"However, by mid-February 2010, as a result of further detailed inquiries and discussions with experts, it was established and agreed that this was not the case and that no such link could be substantiated."

The procurator fiscal went on: "Following the representations therefore by the family and the Greater Glasgow Health Board, it is clear that there no longer exists any controversy surrounding the cause of Lisa's death and the cause of Lisa's tragic death is clear."

Lisa's father, Ken, did not want to comment directly today.

But his lawyer, Cameron Fyfe, of Ross Harper Solicitors, said: "We had a report from Professor Sikora, an expert in oncology, who confirmed that Lisa would probably have survived had it not been for the overdose.

"After further inquiry the professor revised his report to say it was a possibility, not a probability.

"Proof in Scots law is based on the balance of probabilities and that is not enough for the Fiscal to proceed with the Fatal Accident Inquiry (FAI).

"I think the family are disappointed that Professor Sikora was unable to adhere to his initial view but they accept that it was not appropriate for the FAI to proceed in these circumstances."

He said the family will continue their civil action against NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, the health board which gave her the treatment.

However, they will now seek compensation only for the pain and suffering that Lisa went through as a result of the overdose, and not for her death.

Mr Fyfe said the family were anxious that the civil action is concluded "as quickly as possible".

Lisa died at home on October 18, 2006, 15 months after contacting first NHS 24 and then her GP complaining of abdominal pain, sickness, fever and headaches.

Ms Thomson said: "May I conclude by offering my condolences to Lisa's parents and family for their tragic loss, a loss which they have borne throughout with great dignity."

Sheriff Principal Taylor said he was satisfied with the Crown's position and described the decision not to proceed with the inquiry as "entirely understandable".

The sheriff also expressed his condolences to Lisa's family during the 10-minute hearing.