I FEEL CHEATED

The Irish Mail on Sunday - - CERVICAL CANCER SCANDAL - By Claire Scott claire.scott@mailon­sun­day.ie

A GRIEV­ING hus­band whose wife is one of the 17 women, who lost their lives in the cer­vi­cal can­cer scan­dal told the Ir­ish Mail on Sun­day yes­ter­day that he can’t visit her grave be­cause he feels she has been cheated of life.

Paul Reck, 48, was told last Fri­day, May 4, that his wife Cather­ine was wrongly in­formed that her smear test did not show strik­ing ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties – re­sult­ing in a painful bat­tle with cer­vi­cal can­cer be­fore her death on April 13, 2012.

The mother-of-three was 48 years old when she died – just two days af­ter she learned she was to be a grand­mother for the first time.

She was ini­tially told that the smear she had in Novem­ber 2010 had re­ported low­grade ab­nor­mal­i­ties. How­ever, her fam­ily has re­cently learned that this test showed se­vere ab­nor­mal­i­ties.

These rev­e­la­tions have ‘changed every­thing’ for the Reck fam­ily and the ques­tions they have had for years around the cir­cum­stances of Cather­ine’s death now make sense. On Fri­day night, her fam­ily re­leased a har­row­ing state­ment, right, re­veal­ing the process by which fam­i­lies are fi­nally be­ing in­formed about their loved ones’ missed di­ag­noses – and how they are seek­ing ac­count­abil­ity.

Paul told the MoS yes­ter­day: ‘We’ve been pushed deeper into the grief we were in be­fore. When you’re do­ing some­thing you

‘What could have been now is what should have been’

think, “Cather­ine would have en­joyed this,” and now we’ll think, “Cather­ine should have been here to en­joy this.”

‘It’s a case of what could have been is now what should have been.

‘As a hus­band, you’re go­ing to think to your­self, “Should I have done this? Could I have known this?” But I’m not a doc­tor and you put your faith in the doc­tors. But look­ing back it makes a lot of sense now as to what was go­ing on.’

Paul and his two el­dest chil­dren, Grace, 30, and Thomas, 24, at­tended an ap­point­ment in Tal­laght Hospi­tal on Thurs­day to find out what had hap­pened to Cather­ine – but were left shocked by the staff’s treat­ment, out­lined in their state­ment.

‘Even­tu­ally the per­son showed up and we were brought into a room with stir­rups to the left of me. I couldn’t be­lieve it. The doc­tor told us she was very sur­prised that Cather­ine had not been re­ferred to the hospi­tal be­fore August 2011.’

The most shock­ing rev­e­la­tion for the fam­ily was that staff in the hospi­tal knew about Cather­ine’s mis­di­ag­no­sis in 2016 when Cer­vi­calCheck is­sued them a let­ter.

The let­ter, seen by Paul, had a hand­writ­ten note from a mem­ber of staff, which read, “Con­tact GP to see if pa­tient is still alive”. Un­der­neath that the date of Cather­ine’s death is writ­ten. ‘They chose not to tell us and, when I asked why, the doc­tor said they were in­structed to file it. I asked when they in­ves­ti­gated to see if Cather­ine was still alive and she said, “Some­time around then.” It was very blasé, the way it was said.

‘They said they were in­structed not to tell us but the let­ter did not say that. It said they were to use their dis­cre­tion, so they de­cided not to tell us and bury it and hope that it would never sur­face.

‘She said that, look­ing back, maybe they should have told us. I told her, “You put your­selves above God as to whether you would in­form pa­tients or their fam­i­lies about what re­ally hap­pened. You had a med­i­cal obli­ga­tion and moral obli­ga­tion to tell fam­i­lies what re­ally hap­pened and you chose not to’.

When asked to com­ment on the Reck fam­ily’s treat­ment in Tal­laght hospi­tal, a spokes­woman said: ‘Tal­laght Univer­sity Hospi­tal wishes to apol­o­gise to Cather­ine Reck’s hus­band Paul and his fam­ily for the dis­tress they ex­pe­ri­enced in re­vis­it­ing the hospi­tal. The feed­back from the fam­ily re­gard­ing their re­cent visit has been taken on board.’

Grace has pre­vi­ously writ­ten about her heart­break over her mother’s death in a blog post that re­ceived na­tional me­dia at­ten­tion in 2016. In the post, Grace de­tailed her dev­as­ta­tion at los­ing Cather­ine as she was just ven­tur­ing into moth­er­hood her­self, hav­ing just found out she was preg­nant a day be­fore her mother slipped into a coma and passed away.

‘For nearly ev­ery sec­ond of [my preg­nancy] I would have given any­thing for her to be there by my side. I had peo­ple to mind me… but some­times you just need your mam.’

When asked what Cather­ine was like and what he re­mem­bered of their 25-year mar­riage, Paul said: ‘Cather­ine was a bril­liant per­son, a bril­liant mother and such a strong per­son, a lot stronger than I’d ever thought I’d be.

‘The last thing you would ex­pect is to see her paral­ysed, need­ing around-the-clock care. To look back and know it could have been prevented just changes every­thing.’

Paul said this has hugely im­pacted his fam­ily and their abil­ity to grieve: ‘I can’t go to her grave be­cause I feel like she’s been cheated. I feel like we as a fam­ily have been cheated. Our two grand­chil­dren have been cheated out of so much.

Now Paul in­tends to gather as much in­for­ma­tion as pos­si­ble, so that those who failed to no­tify the fam­ily can be ‘held to ac­count’. ‘Morally this has to sit very un­easy with all these peo­ple who knew,’ he added.

When asked if he thinks it’s pos­si­ble to com­pen­sate the fam­i­lies who have lost mothers, sis­ters and daugh­ters, he said: ‘A fi­nan­cial apol­ogy won’t change any­thing. It won’t bring Cather­ine back.

‘If those who are in­volved are made ac­count­able and it never hap­pens to any­one else I sup­pose that would be a good out­come know­ing other fam­i­lies don’t have to suf­fer.’

‘They de­cided not to tell us, just bury it in­stead’

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