Mother with breast cancer sues two hospitals over care
A mother of two who has breast cancer has launched a High Court action over the care she received at two hospitals.
Joan O’Sullivan, who has a mutation gene which means she is at higher risk of cancer, claims she has suffered a delay in the diagnosis and treatment of her cancer and, as a result, her life expectancy may have been reduced.
The Tipperary woman has sued St James’s Hospital, Dublin, claiming she suffered an alleged perforation to her bowel during an operation in 2013 which was part of a cancer preventative plan and, as a result, she has claimed plans for a preventative full mastectomy were derailed.
She has also sued the HSE over her care at Cork University Hospital (CUH) where, she claims, an 8mm tumour in her right breast was not diagnosed when she had a scan in 2016 and when the tumour was diagnosed 522 days later it was 3cm in size.
Ms O’Sullivan, Mr Justice Michael Hanna was told, has since had 20 weeks of chemotherapy and has had a rightsided mastectomy.
Ms O’Sullivan, of McDonagh Court, Old Rd, Cashel, Co Tipperary, has sued St James’s Hospital claiming in relation to the 2013 procedure that there was an alleged failure to exercise reasonable care and skill and her bowel was allegedly perforated.
She has also sued the HSE claiming there was an alleged failure to identify or to heed adequately or at all a significant abnormality in an MRI scan carried out in CUH in April 2016 and there was an allegedly delayed diagnosis of triple negative breast cancer in her right breast.
Mr Justice Hanna was told that St James’s Hospital and the HSE deny claims but the HSE this week, by letter, admitted a breach of duty in relation to some of the care afforded at CUH.
Ms O’Sullivan’s counsel, Patrick Treacy, told the court Ms O’Sullivan, who has lost members of her extended family to cancer, was diagnosed as a carrier of the BRCA1 mutation gene, which means the carrier has a higher risk of ovarian and breast cancer.
Counsel said it was decided there would be ongoing monitoring of Ms O’Sullivan at St James’s Hospital and a treatment plan was put in place. He said it was decided Ms O’Sullivan would have a procedure as an outpatient on March 6, 2013, to remove her ovaries and fallopian tubes and a double mastectomy was expected to be carried out in autumn 2013.
Counsel said that, on March 6, “tragically and unfortunately” a simple and profound error was made. It was their case that an alleged perforation of Ms O’Sullivan’s bowel took place during the suturing after the laparoscopic procedure.
It was their case that the alleged perforation should not have happened and the post-op care allegedly fell below the standard of the hospital.
Mr Treacy said Ms O’Sullivan was discharged from hospital when she was in significant pain.
Days later, she was admitted to another hospital feeling unwell and with a raised temperature. She was advised she had sepsis and E.coli and she had to have another operation.
Mr Treacy said Ms O’ Sullivan’ s plans for a preventative double mastectomy in autumn 2013 were derailed as the woman was not well, had abdominal pain, and was suffering from post-traumatic stress and having flashbacks relating to the March 2013 procedure.
On October 19, 2017, she was diagnosed with cancer in the right breast. Counsel said if Ms O’Sullivan had a mastectomy in autumn 2013, she would never have developed the two lumps in her right breast.
Counsel said that, on April 29, 2016, Ms O’Sullivan had an MRI scan at CUH. Counsel said it was their case that, on this occasion, a tumour of 8mm wide was present in her right breast, but there was no biopsy. When she next had a scan in October 2017 the tumour was 3cm in size, said Mr Treacy.
The case continues.
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