Thursday 14 December 2017

HSE finally apologises to woman for failing to spot cancer

Tim Healy

THE HSE has apologised to a woman whose breast cancer was misdiagnosed three times. Olive Fahey had a mastectomy 19 months later, after an invasive cancer had finally been discovered.

The apology was read out in the High Court as part of Mrs Fahey's settlement of her aggravated-damages action, as a result of the misdiagnosis after she had been referred to Barrington's Hospital in Limerick.

Outside court yesterday, Mrs Fahey and her husband Michael said they were relieved at reaching the settlement.

Their solicitor, Cian O'Carroll, said that as a consequence of Mrs Fahey's misdiagnosis, huge advances had since been made in symptomatic breast care in Ireland.

He said the couple's ordeal had been compounded because for five years the various defendants contested the case, bringing the Faheys to the point where they had to surrender their privacy and Mrs Fahey's anonymity by bringing the case to court.

Only on the third day of hearing was the case finally settled, he said, and only in the past week had "most of the defendants acknowledged what was very clearly their mistake".

Five years ago, he said, Mrs Fahey met with then health minister Mary Harney, who assured her everything would be done to sort this out quickly -- but nothing happened.


Mr O'Carroll continued: "Instead, for the next five years the HSE and the other defendants contested that case, dragged out the proceedings and ultimately forced her into court this week where she had to give evidence, get up in the witness stand and she lost her privacy and her anonymity."

The High Court heard that on three separate occasions between September 2005 and March 2007, Mrs Fahey was told she did not have breast cancer.

An infiltrating invasive cancer was finally discovered in 2007 in a case which sparked off a review of breast-cancer services at the Limerick Hospital.

Mrs Fahey (57) of Rahinch, Littleton, Thurles, Co Tipperary, also had to undergo 30 sessions of radiotherapy and chemotherapy after her cancer had at last been diagnosed correctly.

She had sued Barringtons, where she went for treatment after she had found a lump on her breast; the Health Service Executive; surgeon Paul O'Byrne and consultant radiologist Alex Stafford.

Mr Justice Sean Ryan was told on the first day of the hearing that there was an admission of liability on behalf of all the defendants in relation to the injuries caused to Mrs Fahey -- but not in relation to the aggravated damages claim.

In court yesterday, following several hours of negotiation, the settlement was announced by Patrick Hanratty SC, for the defendants, and the case was struck out.

On behalf of the defendants, Mr Hanratty he said he wanted to acknowledge the very difficult time Mrs Fahey has been through due to the delay in the diagnosis of her cancer. He said the defendants regretted what had happened.

Irish Independent

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