She Googled Her Symptoms, Doctors Ignored Her, Now She’s Dead

A British teenager was convinced her cancer was back after Googling her symptoms. Doctors told her to quit searching and trust their judgment. When she was finally admitted to the hospital, it was too late to save her.

06.16.15 7:50 PM ET

After researching her symptoms online, Bronte Doyne, 19, was convinced that her cancer had come back. Doctors told her to “stop Googling your symptoms.”

When she was eventually admitted to the hospital, after 16 months of begging to be taken seriously, she died in just 10 days.

Her disease had become too aggressive for treatment. Nottingham University Hospitals medical director Dr. Stephen Fowlie said, “Sadly, there were no further surgical, chemotherapy or radiotherapy treatment options for Bronte’s very aggressive cancer.”

Doyne was suffering from fibrolamellar hepatocellular carcinoma, a rare form of liver cancer that only affects 200 people each year. When she was first hospitalized in 2011, doctors suspected appendicitis. When she was eventually diagnosed with cancer, she was told that her chances of survival were high after surgery.

However, Doyne’s family raised concerns over the high chance of recurrence after researching the deadly disease online. They were promptly told to stop using Google for information.

Doyne’s mother Lorraine gave a heartbreaking interview to The Telegraph in which she says that their efforts to “understand Bronte’s prognosis were handled in an evasive and aloof manner.”

“We weren’t given any information by the hospital about this but we did know it had a really poor outcome, yet they did nothing and just left us to wait and dismissed her concerns,” Lorraine said.

Meanwhile, Doyne’s Twitter and diary portrayed a young woman suffering immensely. The Telegraph published diary accounts about how doctors neglected her: “I got so angry because the doctor was so rude and just shrugged his shoulders. He gave me a sarcastic comment like you can sleep here if you want but they won’t do anything. So I just have to wait for another hospital appointment.”

Shortly before she died she wrote, “I feel things aren’t good but no news from hospital. Need answers. Want to know what’s going on. Something’s not right. I’m sick of this.”

In response to the case, Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust admits that they did not “listen with sufficient attention” to her concerns. Deputy Medical Director Keith Girling said, “This has put the spotlight on how the internet age and the availability of information can challenge the way we respond to patients who may be very well informed, but can remain frightened and vulnerable.”

However, Doyne’s mother is left to wonder whether the use of this information could have saved her daughter. She is working with the hospital board to improve patient communication.

When reached for comment, Dr. Fowlie said, “We are sharing the learning from Bronte’s experience. Lorraine is assisting us to improve how we help patients.”