Aspiring model, 27, dies after doctor dismisses symptoms

·5-min read

The family of an aspiring model who died of “aggressive” cervical cancer just four months after a doctor mistook her symptoms for a hormone problem has spoken out.

Porsche McGregor-Sims, 27, from the UK, suffered from symptoms including abdominal pain and bleeding for 15 months before she died at a hospital in Portsmouth on April 14, 2020, ITV News reports.

The 27-year-old underwent her first smear test in 2017, which uncovered no cancerous cells but did find “abnormal cells” — though no further action was taken.

An inquest into her death heard she was referred to locum gynaecologist Dr Peter Schlesinger in January, 2020 after complaining to her general practitioner.

Porsche McGregor-Sims, who suffered severe symptoms, before her cancer diagnosis. Source: Solent/Australscope
Porsche McGregor-Sims, 27, died two days after finally being diagnosed with cervical cancer. She complained of painful symptoms for over a year. Source: Solent/Australscope

Experts had initially believed Ms McGregor-Sims’ shortness of breath could be linked to Covid.

The court heard Dr Schlesinger insisted her symptoms — including bleeding after sex — did not lead him to think she had a serious illness.

He also declined to perform a physical examination, believing her pain to be linked to the side effects of birth control and endometriosis or irritable bowel syndrome, according to the publication.

Dr Schlesinger, a 71-year-old dad of four, told an earlier hearing he didn't think a vaginal examination was “needed”, and Ms McGregor-Sims later complained he “hadn't listened” and had “talked over” her.

Ms McGregor-Sims underwent further examinations in early April — when cervical cancer was first suspected — and was referred to the oncology department on April 9.

She was later admitted to Queen Alexandra Hospital with “severely” short breath caused by the cancer, where she died a day later.

The inquest, which concluded on Monday, heard a simple physical examination could have led to an earlier diagnosis.

Porsche with fiance Mark Chappel. Source: Solent/Australscope
Ms McGregor-Sims' mum Fiona Hawke, fiancé Mark Chappel, and twin brother Deucalion questioned Dr Schlesinger's practices during the inquest. Source: Solent/Australscope

'She did not expect to die two days after diagnosis'

Ms McGregor-Sims' mum Fiona Hawke, fiancé Mark Chappel, and twin brother Deucalion questioned Dr Schlesinger's practices during the inquest, asking why a physical examination hadn't taken place.

Ms Hawke told the inquest no one, including her daughter, had expected never to see her again when she was admitted to hospital.

“She was scared and alone. She knew it wasn't good, she knew it was going to be a fight and she knew she probably was not going to survive it in the long run,” she said.

“But she did not expect to die two days after being diagnosed. She expected to be listened to and helped but that is not what happened.”

Ms Hawke said even a “few more weeks” would have made an “indescribable difference” to the family's ability to come to terms with her daughter's illness.

Queen Alexandra Hospital, where the 27-year-old died. Source: Solent/Australscope
She was admitted to Queen Alexandra Hospital with “severely” short breath caused by the cancer, where she died a day later. Source: Solent/Australscope

“From December on, the time taken to diagnose and asses her cost us what very little time we might have had to adjust to the fact we were going to lose her, and to be there with her and for her, and in any way prepare for the massive loss we were about to experience,” she said.

“Had the examination been done in January we would have still have had some time with her.

“When she went into hospital there was not one single person in this family who thought she was not coming out again.

Ms Hawke is now calling for girls as young as 16 to be offered cervical screening, ITV News reports. Currently women aged between 25 and 64 are invited for a screening.

Coroner: Woman's death 'particularly sad'

Claire Burton, a consultant gynaecologist at Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust, has apologised to Ms McGregor-Sims’ family for the care she received.

“If [Dr Schlesinger] had examined her [in late January] then she would have been referred for a colposcopy more quickly, where diagnosis would have been made,” Dr Burton said.

“I would like to express our condolences to Porsche's family and friends, and to apologise for the care she had here.”

Concluding her inquest, Area Coroner Rosamund Rhodes-Kemp said the young woman's untimely death was one of the most “shocking and traumatic” cases she had ever dealt with.

She added that as a result of what she had heard she would be writing a “letter of concern” to the trust responsible for her care.

Fiona Hawke, Mother of Porsche McGregor-Sims, at the inquest. Source: Solent/Australscope
Fiona Hawke is now calling for girls as young as 16 to be offered cervical screening. Source: Solent/Australscope

“We see hundreds and hundreds of cases every year — and I have done about 6,000 inquests — but this one is particularly sad,” Mrs Rhodes-Kemp said.

The inquest heard Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust had reviewed protocols following Porsche's case, which had led to the trust deciding not to employ any locum doctors in the future and instead hire more in-house consultants.

All patients seen by Dr Schlesinger have now been seen again by another doctor, the inquest heard.

Australscope

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