Wednesday 20 February 2019

Mother of two who feels like 'ticking time bomb' after terminal cancer diagnosis claims alleged negligence

Christine Rossiter from Howth, Co. Dublin pictured leaving the Four Courts Pic: Collins Courts
Christine Rossiter from Howth, Co. Dublin pictured leaving the Four Courts Pic: Collins Courts

A 37-year-old mother of two with terminal cancer has launched a High Court action against a GP claiming alleged negligence over a visit to the doctor after she found a small lump under her arm while in the shower.

Christine Rossiter has only months to live after a tumour was found in her breast in 2016 and she has  developed secondary cancer including in her brain, the court heard.

She told the court she feels like a "ticking time bomb" after a new tumour was found in her brain last year.

Ms Rossiter has sued GP Norma Donlon over a consultation she had in 2014.

Dr Donlon contends that Ms Rossiter declined a breast examination  when she came for a consultation on September 2014.

Opening the case, John Gordon SC, for Ms Rossiter, said Ms Rossiter contends the doctor did not examine her breasts.  However, the doctor's note said  'declined breast exam.'

Counsel said the visit lasted 12 minutes and Ms Rossiter would say she was made feel  she was worrying too much and was like a "little bit of a hypochondriac".

She also felt embarrassed and the doctor told her at her age  she had nothing to worry about, he said.

Counsel said Ms Rossiter left feeling a little foolish but very relieved after the 2014 visit.

In August 2016, Ms Rossiter felt a little lump on her left breast and went to another doctor who referred her for further investigation.

It turned out she did have a cancerous tumour in her left breast. She was referred to a consultant.

Counsel said the cancer found was Stage 2 and while it was significant it was not life threatening and would require chemotherapy.

Ms Rossiter went for immediate treatment and had a number of scans which showed she had secondary cancer in various parts of her body.

"What was a dreadful situation unfolded as absolutely calamitous", counsel said.

"The secondaries in her lungs she was told lit up like a Christmas tree on the scan. It was Stage 4 breast cancer and it was terminal ," Mr Gordon said.

He said Ms Rossiter was devastated and she began a form of palliative care and treatment. Ms Rossiter was shell shocked and angry and and embarrassed to be a dying person, he said.

Counsel said at that stage it was confirmed she was unlikely  to live  more than five years  and the cancer has since proved to be relentless.

Her prognosis at this stage is now a number of months.

"The tragedy here is the missing of the opportunity to detect the problem in September 2014," counsel said.

Ms  Rossiter will say she was not asked by Dr Donlon to examine her breasts and his side will contend it is highly unlikely Ms Rossiter would have refused a breast exam.

"If the examination occurred it would have identified a tumour in the left breast. That sadly did not happen," Counsel said.

"That little lump under arm he said "never went away, it was found to be malignant in September 2016," Counsel said.

Ms Rossiter,  Ceanchor Road, Baily, Howth, Co Dublin, has sued Dr Donlon who was a doctor at Hilltop Surgery which is now known at Raheny Medical Centric (Centric) Health at Hilltop Shopping Centre, Station Road, Raheny, Dublin.

It is claimed there was an alleged failure to perform an adequate examination of Ms Rossiter's arm pit and an alleged failure to recommend examination of Ms Rossiter’s breast.

It is further claimed there was an alleged failure to adhere to the  HSE National Breast Cancer GP referral guidelines  and that Ms Rossiter was allegedly exposed to a risk of developing serious illness and injury.

The claims are denied.

Ms  Rossiter told the court there was no way she declined a breast examination and it would be silly to dot that.

The case before Mr justice Anthony Barr continues.

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