Monday 20 November 2017

Settlement and HSE apology for woman whose breast cancer was misdiagnosed

Tim Healy

THE HSE has apologised to a woman whose breast cancer was misdiagnosed three times.

Olive Fahey had to undergo a mastectomy 19 months later after an invasive cancer was finally 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 was referred to Barrington's Hospital, Limerick.

Outside court today Mrs Fahey and her husband Michael said they were relieved with the settlement.

Their solicitor Cian O'Carroll said as a consequence of Mrs Fahey's misdiagnosis, huge advances have been made in symptomatic breast care in Ireland. This, he said had been achieved as a consequence of Mrs Fahey's injury and sacrifice.

The couple's ordeal he said was compounded in that for five years the various defendants contested this case and brought the Faheys to the point where they had to give up and surrender their privacy and Mrs Fahey's anonymity by bringing the case to court.

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

He said the Faheys were very happy with the settlement but it was an awful shame it did not happen sooner.

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

"There were tears shed, hugs and assurances that everything would be be done to sort this out sorted quickly, then nothing," he added.

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

An infiltrating invasive cancer was finally discovered in 2007 in a case which sparked off a review of the 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 when her cancer was finally diagnosed correctly.

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

Mr Justice Sean Ryan was told on the first day of the hearing 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 today, 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.

On behalf of the HSE specifically, he said it wanted to apologise to Mrs Fahey and wished to acknowledge the significant contribution she has made to breast cancer services in Ireland. The HSE and the defendants wished her the very best in the future.

Mr Justice Ryan said he hoped the apology meant something to Mrs Fahey and he appreciated everything she had been through.

Mrs Fahey's case sparked of two investigations- an inquiry ordered by Health Minister Mary Harney in to the breast cancer services at Barringtons Hospital and also an investigation in to the care of Mrs Fahey whose tissue samples had been sent to the pathology department at University College Hospital, Galway.

The report in to Barringtons concluded there was a significant and avoidable delay in diagnosing Mrs Fahey. The Galway report found there were clear signs of malignancy in the samples sent for pathology to Galway which had come back as benign.

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