Sunday 27 May 2018

We can't allow more victims of this rotten culture

The HSE culture of denial, deflection and dysfunction has never been publicly challenged by any government, writes Miriam O'Callaghan

BATTLE: Brigid McCole
BATTLE: Brigid McCole

Miriam O'Callaghan

Eighteen years ago, a mother hung, atomised, like a plume of Saharan dust, over the whole of Dublin Bay. For weeks, she might have shimmered as the fog-horn pulsed long and low over the city limits of the Irish Sea. Or watched ferries, small sailors, sandpapery swimmers, dog-walkers, power-walkers, still-tethered souls haunting the East Pier, calculating how high, how deep, how long.

In truth, she has no idea what she did in those weeks. She remembers only how she got there. In a coastal clinic, she'd expected to discuss with a doctor, test-results for her small son. Instead, with tanned hands and dazzling cuffs, the doctor produced a rocket-launcher from the manila folder on his desk. Shot her, point blank, in the chest. Afterwards, only her severed legs made it to the car park, the rest of her was blown so small, far, high, that the capital C between Howth and Bray seemed to her like the nail-tip of a newborn.

But then the man with the rocket-launcher contacted the atomised woman. He'd noted equally dramatic results in another patient, asked the UK lab to retest. The results were wrong. Based on them he had made a misdiagnosis. She could do as she wished. Not only was this man behaving impeccably as a doctor, he was behaving impeccably as a human. Here was full, immediate disclosure. No delay, no conditions, no cover-up. Far from running to lawyers, she recommends him to this day, because in a crisis, he can be trusted to do, not simply what is 'correct' by external controls, but to do what is right within himself.

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