Delays in diagnosis and treatment of cervical cancer can be fatal or can result in the need for radical treatment with ongoing side-effects such as pain, premature menopause, impaired bowel and urinary function, painful sexual intercourse, fear of recurrence and psychological damage.

What side-effects from late-treated cervical cancer can be compensated?

We can usually help clients recover compensation for these aspects of their injury but we know from our clients that one of the consequences of late-treated cervical cancer that they find most difficult to come to terms with is loss of their fertility, particularly in younger women who were hoping to have their first or further children in the future. Whilst fertility treatment options are available, such as IVF treatment, some women are not suitable for such treatment and, if they are to have a child of their own, need to have a surrogate.

Until recently, whilst it was possible to recover compensation for many aspects of a late-treated cervical cancer injury, it was not possible under English law to claim for the costs of surrogacy which was needed owing to infertility caused by the delay in treatment for cervical cancer. This left many seriously injured women without an effective remedy for one of the most distressing consequences of their injury.

How has the law changed to compensate for surrogacy costs?

In 2018 there was a development in the law which opened the way for surrogacy costs to be successfully claimed where a woman has been left infertile as a result of a delay in diagnosing cervical cancer.

The medical negligence case of XX v Whittington Hospital NHS Trust concerned a young woman of 29 whose diagnosis of cervical cancer was negligently delayed by four years. As a result of the delay, she needed more radical treatment than she would have had if her condition had been properly managed. She underwent chemo-radiotherapy which caused irreparable damage to her uterus and ovaries. The woman and her partner wished to have their own biological children using a surrogate. To do this they wanted to go to the USA for surrogacy treatment and, therefore, wished to claim the costs of this.

When the case first came to court, the injured woman was awarded the costs of UK-based surrogacy for two pregnancies but was refused the additional costs associated with surrogacy in the USA. She successfully appealed the court’s decision and was awarded the costs of undergoing surrogacy in the USA.