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Two chances to save young mum from cancer were missed, court told


Melissa Hamilton with her husband Seamus

Melissa Hamilton with her husband Seamus

Declan Doherty

Melissa Hamilton with her husband Seamus

A 34-year-old mother-of-three died of cancer after two opportunities to diagnose her were missed, the High Court heard.

Melissa Hamilton died on September 8, 2011 - eight days after her third daughter was delivered by Caesarean section.

Her husband Seamus Hamilton yesterday told the court he was lucky enough to marry his soul mate, and when she died just a fortnight after her breast cancer was finally diagnosed, it felt like a different world.

The grieving husband also had to break the news to his two young daughters, Jessica, who was six at the time, and Darcey, who was two.

"It is not a job I want to have to do again. I could see it in Jessica's eyes. I told her mummy was in heaven and looking over her like an angel," he said.

"Less than a year later, she told me she thought her mummy was only gone to heaven for a while. That was tougher than actually telling her."

Mr Hamilton has launched an action for damages as a result of the death of his wife.

The widower, from Sallywood, Killgordon, Co Donegal, along with their three children, Jessica (10) Darcey (6) and Gracie, who was born just days before her mother's death, have sued the HSE and GP Eileen Coyne with an address at Health Centre, Stranorlar, Donegal.

It was claimed the GP had a duty of care to Mrs Hamilton to exercise all reasonable skill and care in the provision of medical services, including the provision of all services necessary to assist in the diagnosis and early treatment of her breast cancer.

The HSE, it is claimed, was responsible for the control, management and operation of the Breast Centre North West triple assessment clinic in Letterkenny General Hospital and also had a duty to take all reasonable steps to safeguard Mrs Hamilton's life.

It is claimed there was a failure to diagnose Mrs Hamilton's cancer at an earlier treatable stage, and negligent delay in achieving a cancer diagnosis.

Liability was admitted last month, and the case is before the court for assessment of damages.

Mrs Hamilton, the court heard, began to attend Dr Coyne in November/December 2009 with symptoms relating to her right breast. She was referred and attended the breast clinic in Letterkenny in February 2010 for a scan and was told she had a benign cyst.

Senior Counsel Eugene Gleeson said this was the first missed opportunity.

By June 2010, the court heard, the pain was worse and there was a discharge from her breast. She was referred to the breast clinic again and diagnosed with mastitis and prescribed antibiotics.

This, counsel said, was the second missed opportunity.

In August 2011, she went to a locum GP who immediately referred her to the breast clinic. She was diagnosed with cancer and she had an 8cm tumour in her right breast. A decision was made to deliver her baby by C-section at 28 weeks.

The case continues.

Irish Independent