Dutch authorities to further investigate premature death of Irish woman suffering from cancer

Dutch authorities to further investigate premature death of Irish woman suffering from cancer
Adrienne Cullen

The Dutch Healthcare Inspectorate is to "further investigate" the premature death of an Irish woman via cancer.

UCC graduate, journalist and editor, Adrienne Cullen, 58, passed away on New Year's Eve 2018 in the Netherlands having fought cervical cancer.

Ms Cullen, who lived in the country with her husband Peter, successfully sued her hospital, UMC Utrecht, for medical negligence after it “lost” test results in 2011 that showed she had cervical cancer.

The hospital reportedly found the results two years later in 2013, by which time her cancer was terminal.

Her widower, Peter Cluskey, made written submissions to the hospital and the inspectorate about a report which was compiled about the matter in which the hospital conceded that that was negligence in the case.

He felt further investigation was needed.

The hospital had agreed to let in investigators for a Systematic Incident Reconstruction and Evaluation (SIRE) report, to examine what had gone wrong and suggest changes.

Mr Cluskey said he was taken aback when he recently received a communication from the Dutch Healthcare Inspectorate about a further investigation.

"The Inspectorate decided a few days ago, on July 23, to "further investigate this case".

"The letter (to me) is very unclear as to why it has taken this decision. However, that investigation is to be carried out through August and September.

Dutch authorities to further investigate premature death of Irish woman suffering from cancer

"The bottom line is this: It would not be marshalling its resources for two months to 'further investigate' unless it thought there was a reason to do so."

A memorial lecture was held in Ms Cullen's memory at the UMC Utrecht on May 10 last.

Adrienne Cullen was present for the first lecture in her name at the hospital on April 13, 2018.

Adrienne publicly criticised the hospital for the manner in which it had handled her case and for their attempts to silence her by demanding a non-disclosure agreement or ‘gagging clause' as part of her legal settlement.

The hospital admitted liability in the Cullen case but Adrienne received compensation of just €545,000.

Dutch authorities to further investigate premature death of Irish woman suffering from cancer

However, this was a huge sum by Dutch standards and represented the biggest payout for medical negligence in the history of the State.

Prior to her death Adrienne spoke of her belief that gagging clauses continue to perpetuate a culture of silence which allows medical negligence cases to continue unchecked.

"We are handed over to the legal departments of hospitals like we are being thrown to the wolves. I will resist against that happening so no other patients are damaged in the future

"What I have achieved in Utrecht isn't nothing but it is only the first step on a very long journey. It has to be Europe wide.

"There has to be an absolute ban in the EU on using confidentiality clauses which are gagging clauses in contracts between patients and their hospitals because they do not belong there.

"That would be a very good first step."

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