A Bridgend woman who alleges a surgeon performed a mastectomy without her informed consent has secured five-figure compensation, with support from medical negligence specialists Thompsons Solicitors and her trade union.

A routine mammogram revealed the Unite the union member had a large mass in her right breast in May 2013 and she was diagnosed with a ductal carcinoma, a form of breast cancer. Chemotherapy successfully shrunk the tumour, and she was then seen by a breast surgeon in the October.

The surgeon recommended a mastectomy. The Unite member wanted to explore less invasive, breast conserving procedures, such as a wide local excision, but she states the surgeon refused to discuss other treatment options.

The woman raised her concerns about the mastectomy with nursing staff and a junior doctor ahead of her surgery, and was told to discuss her concerns with the surgeon. She did so, telling the surgeon she would only consent to a lumpectomy and amended her consent form accordingly. However, the surgeon insisted she remove ‘wide local excision’ from the form.

“My surgeon seemed to care more about his own opinion than what was best for me,” the Unite member said. “There was no reasoning with him and no alternatives were ever discussed. It was belittling to be treated as if I was hysterical, all because I wanted to discuss other treatment options.”

Despite the patient’s reservations, in late October the surgeon performed a mastectomy and removed nine axillary nodes, which went beyond the sentinel node biopsy that had been consented to. A type of blue dye should be injected into a patient before and during a sentinel node biopsy, however the surgeon failed to do this, implying he never intended to perform the biopsy.

Following the mastectomy, the woman agreed to radiotherapy and had reconstructive surgery on her breast. The ordeal caused her significant mental distress, for which she received counselling, in addition to the physical impact of her surgery.

“My surgeon seemed to care more about his own opinion than what was best for me.”

Thompsons Solicitors' medical negligence client

She contacted Unite Legal Services and medical negligence experts Thompsons Solicitors for legal support. While Cwm Taf University Health Board denied liability, Thompsons Solicitors was successful, with the expertise of an independent consultant breast surgeon, in arguing that the patient should have been given the option for less invasive surgery after raising her concerns, and that the failure to discuss all of the options and the pressure placed on her to undergo a mastectomy demonstrated a lack of informed consent. Also, the removal of almost all of her lymph nodes went beyond her signed consent and was deemed a breach of duty.

“I’ve suffered years of physical and psychological anguish because of this man,” she continued. “It started to feel like no one would listen to me, but fortunately that wasn’t the case with Thompsons. The solicitors I dealt with were professional and caring and I felt like I was receiving genuine help throughout the legal process.”

John Toner, Unite legal officer, said: “Our member made a reasonable request to explore options available for less invasive surgery. The surgeon refused to listen, apparently feeling he knew what was best for her.

“We are concerned that the full range of surgery options were not fully discussed, calling into question the quality of consent. The surgeon’s actions caused our member emotional and physical trauma, so we are proud to have stood by her in her claim for compensation.”