Copper: Quest for a Cure

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This is the story of how Wilson’s disease, a previously rare and fatal inherited disease, was conquered by a series of individual discoveries, leading to highly effective treatments. It also ...
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Medicolegal Problems

Pp. 50-54 (5)

John Walshe


The average delay in making the correct diagnosis for all patients was 2 years; some were diagnosed relatively quickly others waited many years. This resulted in some unnecessary deaths and some patients being left with severe disabilities and wanting compensation. I was involved in six such cases. In four cases, with the help of my evidence substantial damages were obtained but in two cases, which I think resulted in miscarriages of justice, the patient failed to obtain damages. My first case was in 1974 when a father complained of the late diagnosis of his son's illness which resulted in the boy's death He wanted publicity more than damages in the hope that such an error would not recur. The case was settled out of court with no publicity. Success was also achieved for twins from Belfast and for a civil engineer from England whose diagnosis had been made in the USA having been missed by his consultant in this country. The case of one unfortunate patient who suffered from a very rare abnormality of copper metabolism actually was settled the High Court in the Strand with the award of over one million pounds damages. In two cases my evidence failed to obtain damages, one of these was of a very bad case of case of medical incompetence by a psychiatrist but the plaintiff made her claim too late and the case never came to court. I recommended, in vain, an ex gratia payment should be made.


University of Cambridge, UK.