Wednesday 24 January 2018

Almost €1m settlement for family of young mother who died of cancer after missed opportunities to diagnose

Apology from Letterkenny General Hospital read to the court as part of the settlement

Melissa Hamilton with her husband Seamus
Melissa Hamilton with her husband Seamus Newsdesk Newsdesk

The husband and children of a young mother who died of breast cancer after two missed opportunities to diagnose the disease, have settled their High Court action for damages as Letterkenny General Hospital today apologised in the High Court.

The general manager of the hospital in a letter said he wished to "apologise unreservedly" that Melissa Hamilton's cancer was not diagnosed and treated at an earlier stage .

An apology from the hospital was read to the court as part of the settlement of the case over the wrongful death of the 34-year old Donegal mother who died of breast cancer just eight days after her third child was born.

In a letter to Mellissa's husband Seamus, the general manager of Letterkenny General Hosptial expressed "deepest and sincere regrets" to the Hamiltons.

"It is with a great sense of sadness and regret that I am writing today on behalf of the clinical staff and management of Letterkenny General Hospital and also on a personal basis, to express our deepest and sincere regrets to you and your family on the devastating loss of your wife Melissa," it said.

Read more: Mum-of-three 'never got to touch her newborn baby' before she died of cancer

It added: "I wish to apologise unreservedly to you and your family that Melissa's cancer was not diagnosed and treated at an earlier stage.

"I realise no words can make up for the loss that you and your children have experienced and our thoughts are with you all in these difficult times," the letter said.

Mr Justice Anthony Barr was told that the actions brought by Mr Hamilton and his children had been settled. The judge approved a €900,000 payment for the children and also a statutory division of a sum of €25,400 between eight dependants of Mrs Hamilton.

Melissa Hamilton from Donegal was 34 years of age when she passed away just eight days after she had given birth to her third child.

Her husband Seamus Hamilton had told the High Court judge when she died just a fortnight after her breast cancer was finally diagnosed it felt like a different world.

The grieving husband also had to break the news after the funeral to his two young daughters, Jessica who was six years old at the time and Darcey who was two.

"It is not a job I want to have to do again. I could see it in Jessica's eyes. I told her mummy was in heaven and looking over her like an angel," he said.

Read more: Two chances to save young mum from cancer were missed, court told

He added: "Less than a year later she told me she thought her mummy was only gone to heaven for a while. That was tougher that actually telling her."

Mr Hamilton has launched a High Court action for damages as a result of the wrongful death of his wife Melissa in September 2011.

The widower of Sallywood, Killgordon, Co Donegal along with their three chidlren Jessica now 10, Darcey now 6 and Gracie who was born just days before her mother's death have sued GP Eileen Coyne with an address at Health Centre, Stranorlar, Donegal and the HSE.

It was claimed the GP had a duty of care to Mrs Hamilton to exercise all reasonable skill and care in the provision of medical services including the provision of all services necessary to assist in the diagnosis and early treatment of her breast cancer.

The HSE it is claimed was responsible for the control, management and operation of the Breast Centre North West triple assessment clinic in Letterkenny General Hospital and also had a duty to take allreasonable steps to safeguard Mrs Hamilton's life.

Read more: Mum-of-three died of cancer after opportunities to diagnose were missed, court told

It is claimed there was a failure to diagnose Mrs Hamilton's cancer at an earlier treatable stage and negligent delay in achieving a cancer diagnosis.

Mr Justice Anthony Barr was told that liability was admitted last month and the case which includes a claim for nervous shock on Mr Hamilton's part is before the court for assessment of damages.

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