A woman who says she feels like a freak because of the effect on her growth of an undiagnosed tumour has won £1.228 million damages.
Kate Woodward, aged 20, claimed at the High Court that her height of 6ft 5in had put paid to her ambition to become an actress and left her with significant medical problems.
Now studying for a degree in screenwriting and producing, she brought proceedings against Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust over treatment received at St James’s University Hospital and Leeds General Infirmary.
The trust admitted clinical negligence but disputed the amount due to Miss Woodward arguing for an award of just under £700,000.
Ruling on the case, Judge Stuart Baker said: ‘My assessment is that the claimant’s life has undoubtedly been severely affected to a very great extent and will always be very different from what she might otherwise reasonably have expected to look forward to. That will result in a substantial award.
‘I do not in any way diminish the range and the breadth of ways in which her life has been altered but I must keep a sense of perspective. This claimant has the use of all her limbs and all five physical senses. She is intellectually capable of undertaking a full-time undergraduate course studying for an honours degree which she hopes will lead into employment or self-employment in the creative world of scriptwriting.
‘She shows initiative and determination and has the impetus to seek opportunities for herself. She is motivated to enter into a career, and to maintain as far as she can some control over her weight by a combination of strict dieting and taking exercise.
‘She has a circle of friends and a modest social life. She is able to drive a car. She envisages making her life in London where there may be the greatest range of opportunities within the world of writing for the entertainment media.
'She hopes, in the next 10 years or so, to be able - after necessary fertility treatment - to have one or two children. Whether that will be possible or not will depend upon many factors which I cannot predict, but I can take note of the fact that that is what she would like to do.'
The court heard that the problem with Miss Woodward’s pituitary gland, which went untreated between October 2001 and September 2005, led to excessive growth, bone abnormality and a host of psychological consequences.
The judge said that Miss Woodward had missed out on many of the pleasurable activities which most young women enjoy, such as shopping expeditions and going to nightclubs. She cannot find clothing or footwear on the high street, except for the occasional pair of men’s trainers, and is the subject of rude and cruel comments from strangers.
She cannot use a conventional bath, lie comfortably in a normal-sized bed or fit into a modest-sized car. She has not had a serious relationship with a man and has written off the chance of it happening.
Her low self-esteem showed in her description of herself as ‘a cross between a Michelin man and a stretched-out doll’.
She will need treatment for disabling pain in her back, hips and knees, which might result in her eventually requiring a wheelchair and, from the age of 35, will be at a disadvantage in the labour market and satisfy the legislative definition of being disabled.
She will have to receive growth hormone replacement therapy and monitoring of the tumour - which might recur - for the rest of her life.