Challenging a medical diagnosis

13th October 2015

Challenging a medical diagnosis

The tragic case of Mackenzie Cackett, a four-year-old who died after battling brain and spinal tumours, highlights a fundamental change in the way health care is dispensed and received.

When Mackenzie complained of a sore head and sickness in August 2010, doctors initially told his parents, Danielle and James, there was nothing to worry about – but the severity of his condition was revealed six months later following an MRI scan.

The East Anglian Daily Times reports that the youngster underwent surgery to remove a tumour and a scan of his brain shortly afterwards showed the procedure had been successful. However, had doctors also scanned his neck, the family believe they may have found a second, ultimately fatal, tumour on his spine.

After seeking legal advice, the couple, from Halstead in Essex, took civil action against Colchester and Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trusts. They recently reached an out-of-court settlement with the hospitals, both of which admitted they should have detected the tumour earlier.

Aside from the very real human tragedy, this case emphasises the importance of clinicians acknowledging that patients – and in this instance, parents or guardians – are no longer passive recipients of care. Instead, they should be actively involved in the method and administration of their treatment, pushing doctors for further action if they cannot be reasonably reassured that the correct diagnosis has been made.

Patients should be aware that they have a choice of where they seek their medical treatment and that they shouldn’t be afraid to request a second opinion if they are not satisfied.

The decision in the recent case of Montgomery v Lanarkshire Health Board emphasises the importance of doctors understanding the concerns of patients and acting upon them. The Supreme Court held that changes in society and in the way that health care is provided mean that it is no longer appropriate to view patients as uninformed, incapable of understanding medical matters or as being wholly dependent on information from doctors. ¬¬

This represents a significant – and welcome – shift in the policy and approach of the medical profession.

And it’s a change that is wholly supported by the General Medical Council (GMC). One of the GMC’s documents currently in force (Good Medical Practice (2013)) states, under the heading ‘The duties of a doctor registered with the General Medical Council’, that doctors should “work in partnership with patients. Listen to, and respond to, their concerns and preferences. Give patients the information they want or need in a way they can understand”.

Indeed, NHS England’s own guidance states that patients should be “active participants in the design of their care” and that there are “significant opportunities to design services that enable patients with their family, friends and professionals to decide how their care should be designed and delivered”.

In Mackenzie’s case, his parents did challenge the initial diagnosis. Sadly though, his condition had deteriorated so rapidly and to such an extent that their persistence wasn’t enough to save his life.

But the four-year-old’s story does emphasise the need for patients to take an active role in their treatment, to complain when they are unhappy with their care, and to push for further investigation if they are not reassured.

Gotelee is a leading Suffolk firm of solicitors offering a range of legal services, including medical negligence advice. Get in touch by visiting or calling 01473 211121.

Practice Areas
Medical Negligence
Blog Posts

Government plans to give more protection to gig economy employees


The gig economy cases keep on coming. Both the Employment Appeal Tribunal and the…

Read More
Upcoming Events

The Great East Run


A Gotelee team will be running The Great East Run on Sunday 16th at…

Read More
News Posts

Time to Talk Day 2019


  Mental health and well-being is not just a tick box exercise.  In 2016/17…

Read More


"Approachable, very efficient, always willing to take my calls and update me."

- SH

"We were very pleased to have Jade as our solicitor, the service was excellent and we felt kept in the loop which minimised stress"

- CT

"I have used Tracey Laflin at Gotelee on a number of occasions and in my opinion, she is simply the most efficient conveyancing solicitor I have ever worked with. From the outset, she took the time to understand my specific business requirements and to date, she has exceeded all of my expectations."

- Dale Fiddy - Portobello Developments Ltd

"I don't think this house sale would have pulled together without Jo's determination and expertise. Excellent!"

- MT

"Jade Shelton was absolutely fantastic!! Professional and proactive at all times."

- JH

"This is by far the go-to firm for any issues. You are made to feel valued from the outset and they are so confident in what they do. Wouldn't recommend any other. Thank you Hugh and Max."

- Ros Jones

"Domini was very fast and efficient in carrying out her work for me - she was also very good at explaining things to me"


"Prompt, helpful, polite and very professional service"


"The ease that we could access and speak to Pat Smith - Thank you"


"We found Rachel Dawson outstanding, polite, professional and caring."


Please select preferred method of contact

* We will only contact you by telephone if you select this as primary form of contact. All web enquiries will be stored on our website for 30 days.