A 37 year old woman from Nottingham has lost a claim for future pain and suffering following failure by a hospital to notify her of a positive result of a sexually transmitted infection with the result that the infection was left untreated for a year.

The woman who suffered from a pre-existing somatic symptom disorder (a form of psychological disorder associated with episodes of extreme anxiety about physical pain or fatigue) claimed that as a consequence of the untreated infection, she developed pelvic inflammatory disease and had an ectopic pregnancy resulting in her fallopian tubes being removed. She also suffered from stress that in turn caused a facial rash/excoriation and a Persistent Somatoform Pain Disorder which spread and became chronic widespread pain resulting in her not being able to ever work again, look after herself independently or care for her children.

She alleged that the pain disorder and the chronic pain were caused or materially contributed to by the pelvic inflammatory disease in turn caused by the untreated infection. She claimed substantial damages for future care as well as for past gratuitous care given to her and her children by her husband and parents in law.

The hospital admitted liability for failure to notify her and treat the infection but disputed the consequences of the untreated infection and that the impact of failure to treat was as debilitating as she claimed.

Evidence led by the hospital showed Facebook posts of the claimant with an active and glamorous social life and mobility (including Zumba classes) which painted an entirely different picture from the alleged devastating effects of the untreated infection.

The court found that the claimant’s complaints of pelvic pain and its effects was materially contributed to by the experience of abdominal pain caused by the untreated infection and was therefore causally related to the hospital’s negligence. The claimant’s pre-existing vulnerability and the various psycho-social issues in her life at the time would have triggered her pre-existing somatic symptom disorder whether or not there had been negligent delay in treating the infection. The pain disorder and the chronic pain and consequent claim for future pain and suffering were therefore found not to have been caused by the hospital’s negligence.

[The case is Satveer Rathore vs Bedford Hospitals NHS Trust]