Women whose breast cancer was missed due to failings by the state-run screening provider may have only a narrow time window should they decide to pursue a compensation claim.
Revelations in court documents that early signs of breast cancer went undetected in more than 100 Queensland women because of failings by the state-run screening provider have raised awareness of Queensland’s strict laws governing medical negligence claims.
Brisbane injury compensation lawyer, John Harvey, says there is a very strict time limitation of 3 years in which to commence a claim in Queensland for a personal injury matter. If a breast screening failure occurred some years ago victims may not have the luxury of time to consider their situation.
John, a Special Counsel with Bennett & Philp Lawyers, says the issue came to light with a $1.2 million claim by Louise Perram-Fisk, who settled out of court for a claim against the state government and Metro South Hospital and Health Service, which runs the BreastScreen Queensland (BSQ) centre at Upper Mt Gravatt, which failed to detect her cancer which has since developed into a terminal illness.
Documents tendered to the Supreme Court claimed radiologists working for BSQ were given an unreasonably short time to review mammograms, analysing up to 170 breast screen images an hour.
John says it’s a tragedy that many women in Queensland were misdiagnosed following breast screening. Despite being given the all-clear, they were later diagnosed with breast cancer.
He also says with the revelations of misdiagnosis, any woman who thinks she is a victim of such misdiagnosis needs to seek urgent legal advice from a solicitor specialising in medical negligence law.
It may have been quite some time since the breast screening took place and there is a very strict time limitation of 3 years in which to commence a claim in Queensland for a personal injury.”
“Even in cases where the limitation period has already passed, there still may be a very limited opportunity to revive the claim in special circumstances,” John says.
Ms Perram-Fisk’s lawyers reportedly argued radiologists at BSQ were so overworked they missed breast tissue masses which later develop into cancer in more than 100 patients.
The court documents claimed one BSQ radiologist cleared 110 patients of cancer who were later diagnosed with the disease during the two years to December 2016. Radiologists were given up to 425 images to read in 2.5 hours, according to documents filed in court.
However John says of those women who were misdiagnosed and subsequently developed breast cancer, there may only be a few who have viable claims.
“First there will be the issue of whether the cancer was so far advanced that early diagnosis would not have improved their outcome. Secondly it is most likely only those who have suffered a severe disruption to their income earning capacity whose claims will be economically viable.
That is because general damages for pain and suffering are terribly low in Queensland and there are restrictions on claimants being able to recover their legal costs for smaller claims.”
“For all these reasons, it is imperative that those women who believe they may have been affected ought to seek legal advice as soon as possible while still legally able to seek redress,” he says.
Individual liability limited by a scheme approved under professional standards legislation (personal injury work exempted).