Sunday 25 August 2019

Oncologist gave RTÉ producer twice the correct dose of cancer drug

Sinead Ní Dhúlaing-Johnson
Sinead Ní Dhúlaing-Johnson

Liz Farsaci

An oncologist who prescribed more than twice the correct dose of a potentially dangerous drug to a cancer sufferer has been censured by the Medical Council.

The patient, Sinéad Ní Dhúlaing Johnson, was an RTÉ producer who later died as a result of the disease.

The doctor, who can only be identified as Dr A, works as a consultant at the Beacon hospital in south Dublin. At the conclusion of the inquiry, the doctor agreed to be censured and promised not to repeat the behaviour that led to the Medical Council inquiry into the treatment of Ms Ní Dhúlaing Johnson.

Eileen Barrington, legal counsel for Dr A, told the inquiry that Dr A was "a competent, well qualified and very well regarded medical oncologist", and that there was no suggestion that Dr A's mistake caused or hastened Ms Ní Dhúlaing Johnson's death.

The hearing, which began in September of this year, heard that Ms Ní Dhúlaing Johnson, from Dundrum, Dublin, died from a brain tumour on November 25, 2010, at the age of 44, surrounded by family. Prior to her illness, she produced children's television shows for the national broadcaster.

As part of the inquiry, it was alleged that she was given more than twice the correct dose of chemotherapy drug Temozolomide, which she took for 16 days in August and September 2008 before the error was discovered.

As a result, Ms Ní Dhúlaing Johnson became extremely unwell and required hospitalisation until November of that year.

The inquiry heard that Dr A admitted to the mistake of the incorrect dosage, and by September 15, 2008, had put in place a series of precautions in the hospital to ensure that this type of mistake would not happen again.

In 2000, at the age of 33, Ms Ní Dhúlaing Johnson was diagnosed with a brain tumour. At the inquiry sitting in September of this year, Eddie Johnson praised his wife, saying: "Sinéad was a very positive person."

Dr John Alan Green, an expert witness called by the Medical Council, told the inquiry that Temozolomide was a drug that was not used very often.

Ms Ní Dhúlaing Johnson's case was the first time in Ireland that this medication was used in conjunction with IMRT, an advanced type of radiotherapy.

Irish Independent

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