£1.2m for woman left feeling like freak at 6ft 5in

A woman who says she feels like a freak after an undiagnosed tumour made her grow unusually tall has won £1.228m damages from a Yorkshire NHS Hospital Trust.

Kate Woodward, 20, claimed at London’s 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 when she and her family lived in Leeds.

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The trust admitted clinical negligence but disputed the amount due to Miss Woodward, whose family now live in Sidmouth, Devon, arguing for just under £700,000.

In his ruling yesterday, Judge Stuart Baker said he accepted her life had been significantly affected to date by the impact of the tumour, and would continue to be affected as she gets older. That, he said, “will result in a substantial award” but he added: “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.”

At a hearing last month, the court heard 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.

A “precocious” child, she had hoped to become an actress but that wish had been abandoned as the full extent of her medical condition became clear.

She was instead now studying for a degree in screenwriting and producing at Regent’s College London, with the hope of securing a job at the BBC, while still struggling with the emotional and physical difficulties of her size.

Her counsel, Stephen Grime QC, told the judge: “We say it is a case where you should approach the matter on the basis that her life has been ruined. Not taken away, not completely ruined, not in the same category as a brain-damaged tetraplegic, but in a whole series of ways her life has been grievously affected.”

She had endured unpleasant treatment and still needed regular injections, while the condition had also disrupted her childhood, schooling and friendships.

He added: “She is acutely conscious of her size and she feels it has marked her out as a freak.”

The judge said Miss Woodward, who weighs around 24 stone, has missed out on many of the pleasurable activities which many 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. Miss Woodward, who turnesd to private treatment, told him: “I don’t really want to be with the NHS any more because of what they have done to me. They have lost my trust.”