THE PARENTS of a Gorey schoolboy who died from cancer at the age of just 15 in 2002 have told a court that a doctor who is on trial for fraud said he would cure him of cancer, or at worst, keep him alive.
At Ennis District Court, Christina and Derek O'Sullivan of Granite Lodge, Gorey, both recounted a meeting with County Clare doctor Paschal Carmody in July 2002, where they said that Dr. Carmody told them he would cure Conor of his cancer.
The consultation on July 9, 2002, came less than two weeks after the O'Sullivans were told by oncologist, Dr. Finn Breathnach that Conor had six months to live.
Conor suffered from a rare form of bone cancer, Ewings Sarcoma, and Dr. Breathnach told the couple that there was no further treatment for the cancer as it was now third stage and a spot had appeared on Conor's skull.
Breaking down in tears recalling the consultation, Mrs. O'Sullivan said that they never told Conor the stark news. She said, 'Conor had his suspicions because he knew that Derek was crying but we never told him.'
Mrs O'Sullivan said that they travelled to the East Clinic after meeting with a patient of Dr. Carmody's, Mark Hadden, who suffered from liver cancer.
Mrs O'Sullivan said that Mr. Hadden was given three months to live but was still alive six years later.
Mrs O'Sullivan told the court that at the consultation with Dr Carmody, he told her that photodynamic therapy (PDT) was suitable for the form of cancer Conor had.
Recalling the meeting with Dr. Carmody at his clinic, Mrs. O'Sullivan said that 'Dr. Carmody put his arm on Conor and told him "I'll cure your cancer and at the worst, if I don't cure you of cancer, I'll keep you alive".'
Asked how she felt leaving Dr. Carmody's surgery, Mrs. O'Sullivan said, 'I felt like I was on cloud nine because he said that he was going to be able to treat Conor.'
However, Conor died the following November 15, aged just 15.
In the case, Dr. Carmody (64) is pleading not guilty to defrauding family members of two cancer patients of €16,554 at the clinic in Killaloe in 2001/02.
Dr. Carmody has also pleaded not guilty to seven deception charges totalling €9,610 in relation to defrauding parents Derek and Christina O'Sullivan concerning the photodynamic therapy treatment given under false pretences to Conor on dates between July and October 2002.
Dr. Carmody has also pleaded not guilty to obtaining by deception €6,944 from John Sheridan (58) of Kells, Co Kilkenny, in November 2001 through the administration of the therapy.
In his evidence on his care for Conor, Dr. Finn Breathnach said that there was 'no possibility of a cure' for Conor O'Sullivan in June 2002.
Dr Breathnach – who developed the national centre for children's cancer at Crumlin Hospital over four decades – said, 'I'm not aware of bone tumours responding to PDT.'
He said, 'It didn't seem appropriate in a paediatric setting to treat deep-seated tumours with PDT.'
In interviews with gardaí, Dr. Carmody said that at no time did he give false hope to cancer patients that he could cure them.
On the allegation that he told Conor O'Sullivan's family that he would cure Conor's cancer, Dr. Carmody told Detective Ryan, ' I didn't tell the family that I would cure Conor or keep the cancer at bay as such. There was no communication of that nature.'
Dr. Carmody said that PDT was administered to Conor O'Sullivan 'with the intention of easing discomfort, prolonging his life or better'.
In a separate interview, Detective Ryan said to Dr. Carmody, ' We have to put it to you that the PDT treatment given to Conor O'Sullivan and John Sheridan was merely an exercise to extract large sums of money from them knowing that the PDT treatment could not be of benefit to them given that they were all terminally ill.'
In response, Dr. Carmody told Detective Ryan, 'I won't be signing this statement because I will have to refer to medical ethicists to determine the ethics of offering hope treatments to any sick persons.'
The case continues and is expected to conclude next week.