THE wife of a young Sligo man whose inquest returned a verdict of medical misadventure into his death said she hopes lessons have been learned and no family has to go through what they have.
Shane Banks died on June 24th 2019 at Galway University Hospital in the aftermath of two surgical procedures to remove his right lung in which he had a small malignant tumour.
The father of three young children who was a fitness enthusiast died from complications after the operation he underwent.
An inquest into his death opened on January 4th in Galway and lasted 14 days. It returned a verdict of death by medical misadventure with coroner Ciarán MacLoughlin making a number of recommendations.
Shane’s widow, Ciara, told The Sligo Champion yesterday (Tuesday) that unless the recommendations are adhered to and all of the things that came out in the 14-day inquest are rectified, then ‘sorry means nothing’.
“For the next family with a patient that comes in, a husband, a brother, a son; sorry doesn’t mean anything. All that could and should have been done differently in Shane’s case has to be looked at, needs to be looked at or else it’s meaningless,” she said.
Ciara says not only has their family missed out on a future with him, but the wonderful father has also been denied the chance to see their children grow up. She said that two and a half years after the IT Sligo lecturer’s death, their young children, Kate, 7, James, 5 and Ellie, 4, speak daily about their dad.
Speaking to The Sligo Champion after the 14-day inquest, she said the family hope no one has to face what they went through.
“I suppose at the moment, we are trying to process what has happened and what has been said. The whole 14 days were so intense with all the testimony and we’re totally exhausted. It’s trying to get back into the house and our three young children, for Shane’s brothers and his mum and dad to try and get back into their lives. There is definite relief that it has started and it’s completed.
"The coroner, Dr Ciarán MacLoughlin was very thorough and fair. The verdict of death by medical misadventure was really what we needed to hear. It was the longest running medical inquest in the history of the State and there were a number of recommendations that were made,” Mrs Banks said.
In a statement the family has released, they say they did get some answers during the inquest but questions still remain. The inquest highlighted the lack of openness and transparency, communication with family and internal communication, collaboration with colleagues and candour about a doctor’s practice and whether they are under supervision/mentorship.
The Coroner’s recommendations included a mentorship programme being established for doctors under the Irish Medical Council, the professional training colleges and the HSE, that standard operating procedures for all cancer multi-disciplinary teams be communicated to all hospitals and that consultant leave is standardised.
After Shane died, his family learned that the doctor who carried out both surgeries, Prof Mark Da Costa, had for the preceding 18 months, been the subject of a supervision and mentorship programme in respect of his cardiac practice, but not for lung procedures.
Counsel for the HSE, Luan O’Braonain SC, told the Coroner: “With hindsight, having learned from these events, the hospital and Saolta accept that there was a failure to introduce similar supports for that doctor’s thoracic practice and sincerely apologised to Ciara and Shane’s family for the “potential impact that failure had on Mr Banks’ outcome”.
Ciara added; “Shane was only diagnosed with cancer in March 2019. Because he was so active and healthy, running marathons and the Warriors’ Run, I think he would have responded well to treatment. He died as a result of haemorrhaging as a result of the surgery. I wouldn’t want this to happen again to any other family. Shane was a very healthy, fit young man, he loved running, cycling, mountain biking and was a passionate surfer.
Shane was the eldest son of Michael and Margaret Banks from Carrowkeel and he had two younger brothers, Ray and Allen, all of whom are left devastated by his death.
“With Shane’s level of fitness and he wasn’t an elderly person with underlying conditions, his fitness levels were such that he could have taken on his cancer diagnosis.
“If our Government, the HSE, are serious about patient safety, they will have to put extra effort into ensuring that systems are put into place and operated to the highest standard to prevent a reoccurrence of what happened to Shane.
“It is too late for Shane and our children. Shane will and has not been here for key moments of their lives from first day at school, First Communion to going to football matches, or teaching them to swim and surf, but we can try to ensure it doesn’t happen to any other family.
“We have been robbed of precious time with Shane. We hope the same situation that Shane found himself in does not arise ever again.”
The Banks family say the events that led to Shane’s death raise bigger questions about management within the Irish Healthcare System. The serious issues identified by the evidence at the Inquest and by the Coroner could arise in any unit and in any hospital across the country, they say.
Ciara adds: “The strange thing is you forget in a way that Shane had cancer. We would have taken another hour with him, we didn’t get to live with cancer, it all happened very quickly.
“Cancer didn’t kill him, he didn’t die from cancer. Following the complications of the operation, his level of fitness and health meant he got out of theatre and he just fought and fought, but he couldn’t cope with much more on the Monday morning that he passed away.”
She said the inquest has brought it all back for the family. “The children are doing okay, Ellie is four, James is five and Kate is 7. They are all very young but they are amazing in that they talk about Shane all the time. They are very clued in and they do remember so many things about him.
“They say things that only they could remember about him, even Ellie who was only 2 at the time. All you can do is keep talking as much about him, as are Shane’s brothers, parents and friends. We were big on photographs and videos but it’s sad when you get to the last one. Shane has missed out on so many things, starting school, he was so fantastic with the children, he was unbelievable. He was just so proud and engaged in everything they did, from the first step to the first tooth, he missed Kate going to school that year, he was hoping he would get to bring her.
“We married in June 2013 and the operation on the 21st of June was our sixth wedding anniversary, he did give me a card that morning, but it was the last one,” she added.
The Banks family thanked Coroner Dr Ciarán MacLoughlin and his team and Garda Nora Brady for their hard work and diligence in seeing the inquest through. They also thanked their legal team, Roger Murray, Johan Verbruggen and Sorcha King of Callan Tansey for their support and putting Shane front and centre at all times, for which they are forever grateful.