Cookham Wood jail breast cancer ruling quashed


A woman's right to claim for damages after doctors failed to diagnose her breast cancer while she was in prison in Kent has been quashed.

Cheryl Carter, 34, of Brixton, south London, successfully sued in the High Court for negligence over treatment she received at Cookham Wood jail in 2005.

Now three judges sitting at the Appeal Court have said the finding of negligence was not sustainable in law.

Ms Carter's damages hearing was to have taken place next month.

Her cancer was discovered after she left prison in 2005, and she underwent a mastectomy a year later.

She told the High Court in February that she consulted a prison medical officer three times, in March, April and May 2005, about a lump on her right breast.

Her counsel Paula Sparks said that if Ms Carter had been referred for specialist treatment, she would have been given a better prognosis than the one she received in November 2005 following her release.

But on Friday, Lord Justice Leveson said the prison doctors had found no abnormality and referral for a specialist opinion was not mandatory in the circumstances.

'No comfort'

He said Ms Carter had attended the health clinic in prison for "all manner of complaints" and that the wariness of the medical staff to accept those complaints at face value "would not be surprising".

Allowing the Ministry of Justice appeal, Lord Justice Leveson said: "I reach that conclusion with regret and very real sympathy for Ms Carter, recognising, of course, that this feeling will provide absolutely no comfort to her."

He said he could see no reason for the High Court judge to conclude there was a breach of duty by the doctor.

Sir Scott Baker said the "natural sympathy" of the High Court judge who made the finding of negligence had led him to a conclusion that was not sustainable in law.

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