| 3.7°C Dublin

'Death of my patient is a burden I'll carry for life'

A SURGEON has described the death of one of her patients after what should have been a routine surgical procedure as an "horrendous burden" which she will carry for the rest of her life.

Dr Andrea Hermann told a hearing of the Medical Council yesterday that the death of mother-of-two Saundra O'Connor after a laparoscopy was a "tremendous tragedy, foremost for the family" who had lost a mother, a wife, a daughter and that there were no words to describe what they had gone through.

"Equally so, I have to say, this case has never left me either," she said, adding later that the loss of Ms O'Connor was "the saddest moment of my career".

Dr Hermann was giving evidence to the hearing which is examining seven complaints made against the consultant gynaecologist involving patients in her care between 2005 and 2008 at the Galway Clinic.

Ms O'Connor (39), from Claregalway, fell into a coma and was left in a semi-vegetative state after suffering severe multiple organ failure following a laparoscopy at the Galway Clinic on January 25, 2005. She died three years later.

Dr Hermann has already admitted professional misconduct in relation to the case.

Giving direct testimony to the hearing yesterday, she outlined her failings in relation to the treatment of Ms O'Connor while defending other aspects of the medical care she provided.

The inquiry has already heard expert evidence questioning Dr Hermann's decision to carry out a laparoscopy at all and her failure to react promptly when, in the aftermath of the operation, Ms O'Connor was clearly unwell and nauseous.

Dr Hermann defended her decision to operate on the basis that Ms O'Connor was complaining of a dragging sensation and pain, an ultrasound had indicated an ovarian cyst and the patient had a family history of ovarian cancer.

Dr Hermann said she had no alternative conservative treatment to offer Ms O'Connor. She told the hearing she did not want to tell her patient: "There is the door, come back in six weeks." Expert evidence had suggested the cyst was likely to have resolved itself by then.

The hearing continues today.

Irish Independent