Sunday 17 December 2017

Mum 'watched her son die' as doctors missed brain tumour

Max Earley with his mum Caroline (right) at 22 months.
Max Earley with his mum Caroline (right) at 22 months.
Max Earley on his second birthday
Max Earley
Max Earley with his mother Caroline Earley

Ellen Branagh

The mother of a two-year-old boy who died after a series of blunders saw his brain tumour go undiagnosed has described how she "watched him die".

Max Earley was admitted to hospital after vomiting repeatedly for days but despite having a CT scan, his tumour went undiagnosed and he died the following month, an inquest has heard.

The inquest at Westminster Coroner's Court, London, heard that one doctor incorrectly read the scan, missing the tumour, while another doctor thought the scan had been reviewed by experts at Great Ormond Street Hospital, when in fact they never looked at it.

Max first fell ill in August 2012 after his behaviour changed and he began vomiting constantly.

He was admitted to Hillingdon Hospital in Uxbridge, west London, where a CT scan was carried out amid fears he might have a brain tumour.

But consultant radiologist Dr Christopher Williams admitted he missed the tumour when he looked at the scan. Instead, as another test showed up a potential hernia, doctors focused on a possible gastro-intestinal cause of the toddler's illness, referring him to London's Chelsea and Westminster Hospital.

An MRI scan that would have shown the tumour was "put on hold" while doctors looked at possible gastric problems, the court heard, and was never done, despite one doctor telling the court she had text messaged a colleague to say she thought one should be.


After being allowed home, Max was readmitted to hospital in September as his condition worsened, and his parents watched as he deteriorated.

On the night of September 23 his condition became acute and he was rushed to Great Ormond Street, where the tumour was finally diagnosed. But despite emergency surgery to remove some of it, Max never recovered and died on September 28, 2012, aged 27 months.

His mother Caroline Earley, from Harefield, near Hillingdon, told the court that as his condition worsened, she told doctors she feared her son was dying before her eyes.

Dr Williams admitted there was an error on his part when he said the scan was clear. The inquest was adjourned to today.

Irish Independent

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