Friday 17 November 2017

Family heartbreak as cancer surgeon cleared of misconduct

Siobhan Kavanagh was a 'lover of life' who was destroyed by cancer
Siobhan Kavanagh was a 'lover of life' who was destroyed by cancer

THE family of a woman who died of breast cancer following a nine-month delay in her diagnosis have spoken of their heartbreak, after the consultant who treated her was cleared of professional misconduct.

Separated mother-of-one, Siobhan Kavanagh, passed away in September 2012 after a four year battle with the disease.

Yesterday a Medical Council fitness to practise committee found that a breast surgeon who admitted to failing to send Ms Kavanagh for a mammogram was not guilty of professional misconduct.

The surgeon, who at the direction of the inquiry can only be identified as Dr C, was cleared of all allegations against him at the conclusion of the three-day hearing.

Ms Kavanagh's sister Denise described the decision as a personal tragedy for her family and Siobhan's 11-year-old daughter Eva.

"It's heart-breaking, I don't think it's unfortunate or any of the words they used inside (in the inquiry) it's much worse than that, it's a very personal tragedy for our family, I am glad my dad has passed on and isn't here to see any of this here today," she said.

Denise Kavanagh described her sister as a "lover of life" who was destroyed by cancer.

"She was a very active girl. She used to ride horses and she loved ballroom dancing. After her mastectomy she had nodes removed (from her shoulder) and it meant that she couldn't risk getting injured so she wasn't able to do any of the active things she loved to do, her life was destroyed from that time on," Ms Kavanagh said.

"Her daughter is now going to continue to suffer, Siobhan battled for her daughter. I remember she said 'it's very hard to see others take care of her now, I won't be there'," Denise Kavanagh added.

The inquiry heard that Siobhan Kavanagh was examined by Dr C on August 29, 2007 after complaining of two lumps in her breast.

Following a physical examination and investigation using an ultrasound machine, Dr C concluded that the lumps were the result of dense tissue.

He admitted that this assessment turned out to be incorrect and said he regretted not sending Ms Kavanagh for a triple assessment, an investigation that includes a mammogram.

The inquiry was told that before her first examination, Ms Kavanagh initially failed to turn up for two consecutive appointments with Dr C where she was scheduled to undergo a mammogram. She also failed to attend a follow up appointment in December 2007.


She was eventually diagnosed with breast cancer by Dr C through the use of a mammogram in June 2008 and lodged a complaint against him shortly before her death in 2012.

During the hearing Dr C gave evidence that at the time he first saw Ms Kavanagh, patients had to wait at least three and as many as 18 months for the now standard triple assessment examination, an investigation which involves clinical examination, mammography and pathological examination.

He used ultrasound to decide which women should be sent for an immediate mammogram and triple assessment. He said all women who did not receive an immediate examination would eventually receive triple assessment in a number of months anyway.

In delivering its ruling the fitness to practise committee said while Dr C's omission of a mammogram might appear incorrect in hindsight, this was not a failure to consider his patient's medical condition having regard to the prevailing conditions at the time, including the medical resources available to him.

It cleared him of an allegation that he failed to consider Ms Kavanagh's medical condition, that he failed to carry out an adequate examination, and that he fell seriously short of the standard of care that could reasonably be expected of him.

By Kevin Keane

Irish Independent

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