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Heartbroken dad sues after two failures to spot wife's fatal cancer


Seamus and Melissa Hamilton

Seamus and Melissa Hamilton

Seamus and Melissa Hamilton

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 after the funeral to his two young daughters, Jessica who was six years old 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.

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

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

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

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 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.

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 to 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 pain was worse and there was a discharge from her breast.

She was referred to the breast clinic again and diagnosed with mastitis, prescribed antibiotics, and referred back to her GP.

This, counsel said, was the second missed opportunity.

Throughout the following months, she continued to consult her GP presenting with symptoms including a lump in her right breast.

In August 2011, she went to a locum GP who immediately referred her to the breast clinic.

She was diagnosed with invasive Grade 3 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. Mrs Hamilton had to have a hysterectomy and remained in hospital where she died on September 8.

In evidence, Mr Hamilton, a service engineer, said after the diagnosis was made of his wife's cancer he had given up his job.


On the day Mrs Hamilton was eventually diagnosed "it hit Melissa hard, it was not easy to listen to. We went home and she broke down," he said.

Within two days she was back in hospital. "She never left hospital after that Sunday," he said.

His wife saw her newborn baby but was not able to touch her and Gracie, who was not well, was transferred to Altnagelvin Hospital in Derry shortly after her birth, he said.

He has found it very hard to come to terms with his wife's death and he suffers from flashbacks and never gets a full night's sleep.

The case continues.