Ashleigh Simrajh was 20 years old when she noticed a suspicious lump on her thigh. She booked in with a doctor in the Gold Coast to have it checked, but the doctor didn’t seem concerned enough to biopsy her. Instead, they referred Ashleigh to a general surgeon. The general surgeon agreed with her doctor, that the lump was “merely cosmetic”, and advised that she had two options:
Pay $2,500 for a “cosmetic procedure” to remove the lump in the private health system or;
Wait up to two years in the public system to have it removed.
Fast forward 18 months and the lump had grown bigger, become painful and was bleeding when touched. Ashleigh decided to visit a third doctor who immediately referred her for a biopsy. Two days later she received the earth-shattering phone call; a stage 4 melanoma diagnosis. Further tests showed the cancer had spread into her lungs and lymph nodes. It was now untreatable, and she was considered ‘terminally ill.’ The race against time began.
Ashleigh and her family contacted Shine Lawyers, and our Medical Law team, led by Clare Eves, launched into action. As the doctor and general surgeon failed to diagnose the melanoma, the team at Shine believe Ashleigh was entitled to compensation.
“All Ashleigh really wanted was somebody to turn around and say, ‘you know what? We’re human. We buggered up, We’re sorry”.
Tony Simrajh, Ashleigh’s father
Working closely with the Simrajh family, Clare empowered and supported Ashleigh as she brought national awareness to her experience, with the hope of educating Australians not only on skin cancer, but also the very real possibility of medical negligence and misdiagnosis. Ashleigh received letters and phone calls from the Queensland Premier and Australian Prime Minister, expressing their sympathy and thanking her for her efforts. No amount of monetary compensation could change Ashleigh’s situation, but accountability was important to her and her family. The legal team at Shine ensured the medical practitioners who failed her, were held accountable.
“Queensland has high melanoma rates across the State, a different diagnosis of melanoma in Ashleigh’s case was reasonable. Independent medical opinion has confirmed if a biopsy had been taken at the time, Ashleigh would have had a chance of survival.”
Two weeks before Ashleigh tragically took her final breath, her dream to marry the love of her life – long-term partner Jason Hale – came true. The Gold Coast community and Shine generously rallied together to give Ashleigh her wish. In the company of close friends and family, Ashleigh married Jason in an emotional ceremony, hosted by Sea World on the Gold Coast. At just 23 years of age, Ashleigh passed away at home surrounded by her family – her battle was over. A tragic end to a story that should have and could have been very different. Even in her final moments, Ashleigh was determined to have her voice heard and for Clare and the Shine Medical Negligence team, it was a privilege to help her do that. At her funeral, Ashleigh’s father Tony said, “dealing with Shine, was like dealing with a family,” and for Shine, Ashleigh felt like family. For Ashleigh, this case was about much more than just financial compensation. Her ‘why’ was powered by compassion, love, dreams and the desire to stop this from happening to anyone else.
Images courtesy of Jason O'Brien