Doctor 'lacked urgency over woman's cancer'
Published 20/12/2011 | 05:00
A CONSULTANT has been accused of not acting urgently enough when it emerged that a crucial biopsy ordered on a cancer patient had not been carried out for five months.
Dr Etop Sampson Akpan is facing 27 allegations of professional misconduct in the case of Sharon McEneaney, who faced delays in treatment at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda, Co Louth. He is constesting the allegations.
Ms McEneaney, from Carrickmacross, Co Monaghan, died in April 2009, aged 31. A decision to carry out a biopsy on Ms McEneaney was taken in February 2008, but the test was not carried out until July.
A fitness-to-practise inquiry at the Medical Council heard the issue of the missed biopsy was to be discussed after Ms McEneaney attended an outpatient's clinic on July 2, 2008.
But the decision to pursue the biopsy was not taken for another week until July 10 when the radiologist became involved.
Expert witness Dr Anthony Smith, a consultant at St Mary's Hospital in Manchester, told the inquiry that he was surprised that Dr Akpan did not personally pursue the matter with the radiologist despite being aware of the delay since July 2. "I just think you don't want to take anything to chance now," Dr Smith said.
"That's what I'm most critical of. There doesn't seem to be any great urgency about it."
Ms McEneaney suffered abdominal pain for a nine-month period while receiving treatment at the Drogheda hospital before a crucial biopsy was carried out, which revealed a tumour in her abdomen was malignant. The inquiry has heard how Ms McEneaney underwent exploratory laparoscopic surgery at the hospital on December 20, 2007, at which point a tumour was found.
She was then to undergo a CT scan within days to provide guidance as to whether it would be safe to conduct a biopsy on this tumour, but this did not occur until January 24.
Dr Akpan wrote a note on February 13 for his registrar Dr Rakshana Majeed directing a biopsy should take place and put it in the patient's chart. But the crucial test was subsequently not carried out until July 14.
Counsel for Dr Akpan, Eileen Barrington, said her client had a significant workload.
She claimed that just eight weeks prior to the decision on February 13 to do a biopsy, clinicians had written a letter criticising the lack of clerical support provided for medics.
She said the doctors claimed that due to a lack of support the system was "unsafe and "unsustainable".
Dr Smith also criticised Dr Akpan for telling Ms McEneaney that her tumour was malignant over the telephone later that July. "You certainly would not want to be discussing diagnoses of malignancy on the telephone," he said.