St James's Hospital apologises to man, 58, for cancer misdiagnosis

Stephen Mahady. Photo: Collins Courts

By Ann O'Loughlin

St James's Hospital, Dublin has apologised in the High Court to a man for a cancer misdiagnosis made in his case.

The letter of apology from the CEO of St James's Hospital, Lorcan Birthistle was read out as part of the settlement of an action by 58-year old Stephen Mahady who was diagnosed as having and treated for small cell lung cancer when in fact he had another form of cancer.

On behalf of St James's hospital I wish to express a sincere apology to you for the misdiagnosis of small cell lung cancer that was made in your case.

"This was a failing in the care provided to you and I apologise for this and for the consequential upset, distress and trauma that has caused you and those close to you," the letter stated.

It added: "We strive to provide the highest standards of care to our patients and this occasion we deeply regret having failed to reach those standards."

The hospital CEO said lessons have been learned in relation to the hospital diagnostic procedures which will reduce the potential for it to happen again.

Stephen Mahady, New Hall Court, Blessington Road, Dublin 24 had sued St James's Hospital claiming he was incorrectly diagnosed with and treated for small cell lung cancer when he ought to have been diagnosed with a type of skin cancer, squamous cell carcinoma.

He claimed he suffered a loss of opportunity to have his condition treated and if he was diagnosed and treated appropriately in March 2016 it was claimed he had a 20 percent chance of a long-term cure of his condition. It was claimed he now has no treatment option that would give him any chance of a long-term cure.

Mr Mahady had in February 2016 attended his GP complaining of shortness of breath on exertion and he was sent for a chest Xray which showed a tumour in his right lung.

On March 9, 2016 he attended St James's Hospital for further investigation and a bronchoscopy was carried out and he was reported as showing small cell lung cancer. A scan in April confirmed the presence of a tumour in the lung and lymph nodes and he started chemotherapy and radiation therapy.

In November 2016 he developed a swollen lymph node in his neck and a biopsy showed squamous cell carcinoma and he had to have his tonsils removed.

Subsequently, the original lung biopsy slides from March 2016 were reviewed and it is claimed it became apparent the initial diagnosis of small cell lung cancer was incorrect and it should have been squamous cell carcinoma.

It was claimed there was a misdiagnosis of a small cell lung cancer and a failure to diagnose the other type of cancer. it was further claimed he was allegedly deprived of receiving an opportunity to receive appropriate treatment for his condition and he was allegedly caused to receive incorrect treatment for his condition.

It was also claimed Mr Mahady received radiation therapy to his brain which would not have been carried out had the correct diagnosis been made. Mr Mahady it said was informed about the incorrect diagnosis at a point in time when he was expecting and anticipating receiving good news in relation to his treatment.

It was claimed he was told a mistake had been made and an incorrect diagnosis made at the outset and the treatment he had received to date had been incorrect, unnecessary. He was also told it was claimed he would require further treatment but he would never be cured and his illness would kill him.

The claims were denied.

The terms of the settlement are confidential.

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