Breast Cancer Misdiagnosis by Hospital

A man, whose wife died from following a breast cancer misdiagnosis by a hospital £92,000 settlement approved in the High Court.

Ann Moriaty was just 51 years old when initially diagnosed with breast cancer in April 2005. A mastectomy operation was carried out on her the following month, followed by chemotherapy and radiotherapy at St. James´s Hospital in Dublin. Thereafter she was given six-monthly reviews at St. James´s, where she was considered to be doing well and in remission from the cancer.

In June 2007, Ann started to suffer from weight loss and nausea. She attended, and was admitted to, hospital in on June 11th, where a diagnosis of a urinary tract infection was made and Ann was discharged on June 15 with a course of antibiotics. A chest X-ray was taken at the time which was reviewed and considered to be complication free.

Ann attended hospital again on August 11th suffering from the same symptoms and unable to eat or drink. An outpatient appointment was put in place for August 13, where she was prescribed an anti-emetic and discharged. However, an X-ray taken on August 9th at the hospital had revealed, it was alleged, a local bulge opacity and vague shadowing in the mid-left zone.

Although the family were relieved that there had been no reemergence of the cancer, Ann´s GP was still concerned about her health. On August 14th, she was sent to the emergency clinic where she was immediately admitted and a series of tests carried out. On August 16th, Ann and her family were told that the cancer had recurred and that it was at an advanced stage.

The distraught family sought verification of the later diagnosis at St. James´s Hospital, where it was confirmed that Ann indeed had extensive breast cancer with liver, brain and lung involvement. The hospital advised the family that the extent of cancer meant Ann’s illness was inoperable and, despite undergoing further radiotherapy, Ann died in April 2008.

Alleging that had his wife’s illness been diagnosed sooner, she would have survived longer with fewer symptoms, Ann´s husband – Karl Henry of Ennis, County Clare – and son Ciarán sued for damages for personal injuries, mental distress, loss, damage and loss of dependency. Hel claimed that Ann´s death had a devastating effect on both him and their son and that the consequent HSE public investigation had also caused significant distress.

The claims were denied, but Mr Justice John Quirke at the High Court heard that a settlement offer of £92,000 in compensation without admission of liability. Counsel for the bereaved family said that they were willing to accept the settlement and, stating that this was a “very sad case”, it was approved by the judge.