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Award for Breast Cancer Misdiagnosis by Hospital

A man, whose wife died from breast cancer after being misdiagnosed as all clear, has had a 110,000 Euro award for breast cancer misdiagnosis by a hospital approved in the High Court.

Ann Moriaty was just 51 years of age when first diagnosed with breast cancer in April 2005. She underwent a mastectomy prodcedure the following month, followed by chemotherapy and radiotherapy at St. James´s Hospital in Dublin. After this she attended six-monthly reviews at St. James´s, where she was considered to be doing well and in remission from the cancer.

In June 2007, she started to suffer from weight loss and nausea. Ms Moriaty attended, and was admitted to, the Mid-Western Regional Hospital in Ennis, County Clare, 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 analysed and considered to be normal.

Once again she attended the Mid-Western Regional Hospital on August 11th suffering from the same symptoms and unable to eat or drink. An out-patient appointment was arranged for August 13, where she was prescribed an anti-emetic and sent home. However, another X-ray taken on August 9th at the hospital had shown, it was claimed, a local bulge opacity and vague shadowing in the mid-left zone.

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

The family sought verification of the second 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 incurable and, despite undergoing further radiotherapy, Ann died in April 2008.

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

The HSE refuted the claims, but Mr Justice John Quirke at the High Court heard that they were willing to make an offer of 110,000 Euros 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.