| 15.3°C Dublin

'HSE should have been more decent in cancer blunder'

THE solicitor for a woman whose breast cancer was misdiagnosed three times has called for a "little bit more human decency" in such cases following the settlement of her damages claim.

Olive Fahey's breast cancer was misdiagnosed three times in the space of 18 months.

Mrs Fahey (57) had to undergo a mastectomy 19 months after her first visit to hospital when an invasive cancer was finally discovered.

Her case for damages opened in the High Court earlier this week and was settled yesterday for an undisclosed amount, believed to be six figures.


It brings to end a lengthy ordeal for Mrs Fahey, who sued the HSE, Barrington's Hospital in Limerick, and a number of medical professionals for damages after being told on three separate occasions between September 2005 and March 2007 that she didn't have cancer.

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 yesterday Mrs Fahey and her husband Michael said they were relieved with the settlement.

Their solicitor Cian O'Carroll said huge advances have been made in symptomatic breast care in Ireland as a result of Mrs Fahey's misdiagnosis.

This, he said had been achieved as a consequence of Mrs Fahey's injury and sacrifice.

Mr O'Carroll said: "A little bit more human decency and sincerity and a bit less law is what's needed in these situations."

He said being misdiagnosed was terrible, but it was an act of negligence and was not deliberate.

The solicitor added that the couple's ordeal had been compounded because for five years the various defendants contested this case and brought the Faheys to the point where they had to surrender their privacy and Mrs Fahey's anonymity by bringing the case to court.

Only on the third day of the 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 that it was an awful shame it did not happen sooner.

Five years ago, he said, Mrs Fahey had met with the Health Minister at the time 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 quickly, then nothing," he said.

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 prompted a review of the breast cancer services at the Limerick Hospital.

Mrs Fahey, of Rahinch, Littleton, Thurles, Co Tipperary, also had to undergo 30 sessions of radiotherapy and chemotherapy when her cancer was eventually 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.