Mother died a painful death from undetected lung cancer
THE family of a woman whose lung cancer was only detected after her death has accused the hospital where she died of "systems failure".
An inquest into the death of Teresa Doyle (50) from Marian Avenue in Carrick-on-Suir, Co Tipperary, heard that she died from a rare form of lung cancer that can be difficult to detect.
But on several occasions, Ms Doyle's family asked hospital doctors if lung cancer was a possibility and told that it wasn't. Her niece was told in the weeks before she died that cancer was "not on the radar".
Ms Doyle was treated for uterine cancer in 1997, was a lifelong smoker and was admitted to South Tipperary General Hospital in Clonmel in May of 2007, suffering shortness of breath, vomiting, severe pains, inability to swallow food, dehydration and fainting. The inquest heard that the cancer was only found on her lungs in the form of "widespread" diffuse tumours at a cellular level, during a post-mortem.
The diagnosis made by her medical team in hospital was a re-activation of Behcets Disease, a rare rheumatic illness from which she had suffered.
Ms Doyle's family told the inquest that, during her last days and despite being dehydrated, she could not be put on a dialysis machine as there was no technician available to use it.
She also needed antibiotics that had to be collected by gardai in Waterford as they weren't available in the hospital in Clonmel.
On the date of Ms Doyle's last admission to hospital, May 18, three days before she died, a senior house officer told the family that a Friday evening was "a bad day to be admitted".
After she was moved to the intensive care unit, relatives were told by a doctor that she was responding to an antibiotic and there was "some hope" for her. A nurse later told them the doctor had spoken to the wrong family.
Martina Sinnott, Ms Doyle's niece, said that on May 15, she told consultant Dr Isweri Pillay that she thought all the symptoms pointed towards lung cancer and asked why Teresa wasn't referred to Cork for a bronchoscopy.
The consultant told her "cancer is not on the radar", the inquest heard.
In her evidence, Dr Pillay said she "probably" said this but that it was earlier, during Teresa's first admission to hospital. Dr Pillay agreed that Teresa "wouldn't have suffered as much" if she was correctly diagnosed and she could have been given palliative care.
Consultant radiologist Dr John Hynes said there was "nothing" on a CT scan carried out on Ms Doyle's chest to suggest there may have been a tumour.
Ms Doyle's daughter, Katie Ryan, said the family's concerns were "never addressed nor acknowledged" in the hospital.
"My mother's last days in this world were extremely difficult and painful for her and difficult for her family to watch," she said.
"I believe there was a systems failure."
After the inquest, the family said they were not interested in taking a negligence case or in compensation, but wanted to ensure that what happened to Teresa would not happen again.
The jury recorded a verdict in line with the pathological evidence. It made a number of recommendations, including that the Lung Cancer Rapid Access Referral Guidelines for GPs be "rigorously followed" and that families' concerns be considered and recorded.