Smear tests are an invaluable means of detecting early signs of cervical cancer, but they are only as effective as the scientists who analyse the results. In one case, the family of a young mother who succumbed to the disease five years after she was wrongly given the all-clear won six-figure compensation from the NHS.
The married woman was aged 30 and had a young daughter when she had a routine smear test. A laboratory reported a false negative result after the sample was negligently analysed. Reassured, she went on to have a son, who was aged two when she died of cervical cancer at the age of 35.
After legal proceedings were commenced on the family's behalf, the NHS trust that bore responsibility for the laboratory admitted liability and agreed to pay £790,000 in settlement of the claim. The children will each receive £15,000 of that sum on their 18th birthdays in memory of their mother. In approving the settlement, the High Court expressed its sincere condolences to the family.