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Suffolk/Essex: Widow sues GP, claiming husband’s cancer death was avoidable

11:11 28 January 2014

Chris and Melissa

Chris and Melissa

The Suffolk widow of a father-of-four killed by cancer five years ago is suing a GP for £1.25 million with claims that his premature death was completely avoidable.


Christopher Goodhead - an intensely “fit and determined” marathon runner - died aged just 41 in January 2009, nearly four years after Dr Asim Islam examined him at The Stansted Surgery, in St John’s Road, Stansted, Essex.

Mr Goodhead, who died of rectal cancer, left a widow, Melissa, now of Helmingham, Suffolk, and four sons, then aged between five and 11, London’s High Court heard.

His widow now claims that Dr Islam’s allegedly inadequate examination caused a fatal “delay in diagnosis” of her husband’s condition until mid-2007.

“By that date his cancer was unsurvivable,” her QC, Robert Seabrook, told the court.

For his part Dr Islam, who the court heard was on his first day in the job when he saw Mr Goodhead, denies any responsibility for his death.

His legal team also insists that Mr Goodhead “would have died in any event”, even if referred for immediate specialist treatment in 2005.

Mr Goodhead attended The Stansted Surgery in April 2005 complaining of rectal bleeding, court documents disclosed, but his widow’s lawyers claim the young GP “simply visually examined” his patient and failed to carry out a sufficiently thorough investigation.

Mr Seabrook claimed the medic informed his patient he had piles and - crucially - failed to warn him to return if his symptoms continued.

As a result of being reassured by the doctor, Mr Goodhead “left the surgery believing that his diagnosis was certain, non-serious, and that no further medical input was necessary”, claimed the QC.

“Had he been advised to return for review - or if symptoms continued - he would have done so,” he added.

A diagnosis of stage four cancer was only made in June 2007 - just two months after Mr Goodhead and his wife took part in the London Marathon.

Soon after he was advised to undergo urgent chemotherapy and began to experience the symptoms of virulent cancer spreading throughout his body.

Mr Goodhead - an IT expert - died at home in January 2009, but Mr Seabrook said his gritty character and exceptional fitness would have given him an optimum chance of survival had his disease been pinpointed years earlier.

“It is our case that, with competent assessment and treatment in April 2005, a diagnosis of cancer would have been made in May 2005,” he said.

“He would have been successfully treated and would have lived, or would at least have had an increased length of time to live.

“The defence case is that, even with earlier diagnosis and treatment, he would still have died on exactly the same day - or not significantly later.”

A memorial site created by his widow described Mr Goodhead as “truly a beautiful man”, who “adored” his children and endured his illness with courage and dignity.

Compensation in the case has been agreed at £1,250,000 - but only if Mr Goodhead’s widow, now called Melissa Cutting, proves that her husband would have “survived and lived” but for the alleged negligence.

The case, being heard by Mrs Justice Patterson, continues.

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