A disabled pensioner in the United Kingdom, David West, was wrongly diagnosed with terminal liver cancer but was not permitted to have a biopsy done to confirm the diagnosis. Instead, he was provided with a form to fill that would allow him to claim disability and end-of-life benefits.

Feeling like he had nothing to lose, the 70-year-old travelled to the United States to get a second opinion. Doctors there told him that instead of cancer, he actually had a serious heart condition and would have to undergo urgent and complex surgery to have two heart valves replaced.

"If they had never made the mistake of misdiagnosing me then I would never have flown to the States for treatment and I wouldn't be in this situation,” said West.

The misdiagnosis left him with little choice

West's health first began deteriorating in 2012. He put on weight, became short of breath, suffered lower-body swelling and just "fell apart all of a sudden". He was diagnosed with terminal liver cancer at Salisbury District Hospital, Wiltshire in October 2012, and told that he has only weeks to live.

"Being diagnosed with cancer was a huge emotional challenge. When somebody looks you in the face and says, 'You are going to die' you feel bad about it. You think, 'Strewth, what am I going to do now?” he said.

Waiting times for the procedures he needed were between four and nine months in the NHS while American doctors informed him he was in too serious a condition to fly back and that it was too risky to wait that long for surgery.

The retired army engineer said, "I wrote my will four or five times and changed it and so when I got to America and they told me I wasn't going to die I felt quite happy about it.”

He ended up spending £250,000 on treatment and travel and stayed in San Francisco for almost three years before he was able to come home, due to post-operation complications and aftercare needs.

His trust in the medical system is now lost

"I felt angry that I had been misdiagnosed. Doctors are people I trusted implicitly and it completely shattered my faith in the NHS," West said. Salisbury NHS Foundation Trust has since apologised for its misdiagnosis.

A spokesman said, "We recognize that clinicians should avoid giving life expectancy estimates to patients where the diagnosis is not confirmed.”

“We are sorry for the anxiety that this has caused Mr. West and have ensured that lessons learned from this have been shared with our clinical teams," he added.

West, who is also an ex-NHS engineer, suffers from mobility problems and has been warned that bailiffs could be instructed to evict him if he does not settle the balance of £1,700 or vacate the property by 16 March 2017.

“I am totally disillusioned with the system,” he said.

Due to his extensive time abroad, all of his benefits were stopped and he risks losing the home he has rented for 14 years. Although he has been paid £30,000 in compensation by the NHS, he says it is barely enough to cover his legal fees. MIMS

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