'I have the peace of mind I longed for': Philomena Canning 'vindicated' by HSE settlement

Philomena Canning

Terminally ill midwife Philomena Canning has said she feels vindicated after her legal action against the HSE was settled over the weekend.

Ms Canning sued the HSE for the wrongful suspension of her licence to practice in 2014 which she says ultimately forced her out of midwifery. She had refused the offer of a generous settlement in 2015 because she wanted a court hearing to highlight both what had happened to her and her concerns for safety in maternity care.

However, in recent weeks she received a terminal diagnosis for ovarian cancer and asked for an expedient settlement so she could access funds to pay for the anti-cancer drug, Pembro.

The drug is available through the HSE for those suffering from cervical cancer but not those afflicted with most other types of cancer. It costs between €6,000 and €8,000 per treatment which must be administered once every three weeks, Ms Canning was told.

On 21 February, the Irish Examiner reported that she had decided to publicise her case to force the HSE to settle because she feared that there might be attempts to delay indefinitely.

On Saturday evening she released a statement announcing that the settlement had now been agreed.

“This is a day of vindication for me – the first day in almost four-and-a-half years where I have woken without a shadow over me; the shadow of having been wronged.

“It is a relief to wake in the knowledge that I do not have to fight any more; for my livelihood, my good name, my vocation. I have the peace of mind I longed for.”

She added that it was a day of sadness also because she accepts now that her long-held ambition to open birth centres for women will not be realised.

In August 2014, Ms Canning had advanced plans to open a birth centre, a model which accommodates birth in a domestic setting and which is popular in the UK and on mainland Europe. At the time, Ms Canning had been the leading independent midwife in the state and a vocal advocate for those who wanted a home birth delivery.

The following month her licence to practice was withdrawn over two alleged safety incidents in deliveries she had performed. Neither of the women involved in the incidents had complained and both had complimented the care they received.

In February 2015, she was reinstated after independent reports commissioned by herself and the HSE all confirmed that she had done nothing wrong and acted professionally.

However, she was unable to return to practice without restrictions which she felt compromised both herself and the safety of mothers. Since then she had pursued her legal action and in 2017 was forced to sell her home because she couldn’t keep up the mortgage repayments.

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