Heartbroken mum to set up action group after tot’s tragic cancer death

A grieving mother who alleges six doctors missed a rare form of cancer that led to her two-year-old daughter’s death, is setting up an action group to change how patients are treated in medical practices.

Saturday, 2nd March 2019, 6:00 am
Updated Saturday, 2nd March 2019, 8:32 am
Megan Clarkson

Kelly Clarkson has been contacted by more than 40 families via social media and email who have shared experiences with her of “not being listened to” by GPs.

Her daughter, Megan Clarkson, died in January just three weeks after being diagnosed with type three pleuropulmonary blastoma – a rare and aggressive form of lung cancer found in children. The youngster had a persistent cough since starting nursery at six months old and was plagued with breathing difficulties throughout her short life.

Mrs Clarkson, from Kirkcaldy, alleges six doctors and five nurses failed to take the necessary steps including sending Megan for an X-ray over a 28-month period.

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If Megan’s cancer had been caught between eight and ten months she would have had a 90 per cent chance of survival. By the time she died this had fallen to 37 per cent.

Mrs Clarkson was motivated to contact The Scotsman after reading similar stories of cancer being diagnosed in children later than it should have been. She has set up a Facebook page, Megan’s Journey, and has found herself having to campaign to improve the processes around GP appointments after being “fobbed off” numerous times.

The local health board, NHS Fife, has offered to meet the family to discuss the case, something Mrs Clarkson is keen to do, along with meeting with her local MSP, David Torrance.

She said: “It’s been harrowing to look at the messages but the general theme running through them is people just don’t feel they’re being listened to.

“When you go to the GP you can have a feeling that the problem is something bigger than a routine one. I took Megan to the doctor with a cough and the first thing they said to me was, ‘Come back in two or three weeks’.

“But you end up back at square one when you return. I felt unsupported.

“I’m calling on the process to be looked at and changed. If you’ve got the history of the patient and a better relationship, then the GP will be aware of the first time you saw them.

“But you’re going to the medical practice and you’re seeing a different GP every time and you’ve got to go over your history again and you can forget how many weeks it’s been since the last appointment.

“Every parent is so busy – we work like we don’t have children and we have children like we don’t work. You feel totally put on the spot when the GP is asking you how many weeks’ has it been since they last saw your child.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The death of a child is a painful tragedy, and our thoughts and condolences are with her family.

“We are working to increase early diagnosis of cancer. That is why we have updated the Scottish Referral Guidelines for Suspected Cancer in ­February 2019 to include revised referral guidelines for children, teenagers and young adults.”