Schoolgirl left blind after surgeon fails to spot brain tumour

A SCHOOLGIRL who was told to use eyedrops by one of the country's leading eye specialists when she had a tumour that has left her blind has received more than £1 million in damages.

Ewan Kemp, a consultant opthalmic surgeon, thought there was nothing physically wrong with the nine-year-old and referred her to a psychologist, a court heard.

However, another expert later discovered a tumour was distorting her vision and she was admitted to hospital for emergency surgery. The tumour was successfully removed, but the girl was left blind.

Her mother sued Mr Kemp, service director of the Scottish Opthalmic Oncology Service at Glasgow's Gartnavel Hospital, for 10m at the Court of Session in Edinburgh. The case was settled out of court for an undisclosed, seven-figure sum, but Lord Brailsford had to give a ruling on expenses.

The girl, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was noticed to have developed a squint. She was seen by an optician and by her GP, who referred her to a consultant.

"In May 2005, she was seen by Mr Kemp. In July, he performed surgery to correct the squint. In October, her teacher advised her parents that she was struggling to see the blackboard at school," said Lord Brailsford.

"Mr Kemp reviewed her case, apparently without seeing the child, and diagnosed a condition which would be cured by a short course of eyedrops.

"This course was followed but there was no improvement and her condition, in fact, deteriorated somewhat."

Just under a year later, Mr Kemp referred the girl to a child psychologist. She was later seen by another consultant opthalmologist and found to be suffering from a tumour in the pituitary gland which was putting pressure on her optic nerve and distorting her vision.

"She was admitted to the Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Glasgow as an emergency and on 11 September she underwent surgery for removal of the tumour which was, fortunately, successful but has left her blind," added Lord Brailsford. "That condition is, most unfortunately, irreversible and she will remain blind for the rest of her life."

The mother alleged negligence by Mr Kemp in failing to diagnose the tumour, and agreed to accept an offer to settle the case. The offer included expenses.

Her lawyers asked Lord Brailsford to certify as an expert witness - for whom a higher rate of expenses could be received - Daniel Kish, an American who is blind and who heads World Access for the Blind, a non-profit organisation. He had met the girl and her parents on a visit to Scotland, and wrote reports on her particular needs.

Lord Brailsford agreed to certification, stating: "The person who sustained the loss was a normal girl rendered blind by the causative act of negligence. That is obviously a tragic event and one which, no matter her abilities, will have profound effects on her future life.

"I consider it entirely proper that her parents and advisers seek to do all they can to assist her."

Her mother's lawyers also wanted the expenses to include the costs which had been incurred in setting up a trust to administer the damages for the girl, but Lord Brailsford refused.

"The expenses which have been incurred … should have been anticipated and therefore, in my view, do not form a recoverable charge against Mr Kemp."

Timeline

2005 – Child's parents notice a squint in her eye.

May - Child is seen by consultant Ewan Kemp, who recommends surgery for it.

JULY – Child has surgery to correct squint.

OCTOBER – Child's teacher tells her parents their daughter is struggling to see the blackboard in class. Mr Kemp reviews child's condition without seeing patient and recommends eyedrops. There is no improvement in her condition.

FEBRUARY 2006 - Mr Kemp says he does not think there is any physical reason for her condition.

MARCH - Mr Kemp refers child to psychologist.

AUGUST - Psychologist decides child should see another consultant opthalmologist, who finds she has a tumour on her pituitary gland.

11 SEPTEMBER – Surgery successfully removes the tumour, but the patient is left blind.