Terminally ill cancer patient to get UCC honorary degree

A terminally ill Irish woman who won the biggest financial settlement for medical negligence ever in the Netherlands after a hospital lost her test results leaving her with incurable cancer is to be conferred with an honorary degree at UCC next Monday.

UCC sociology and philosophy graduate Adrienne Cullen said the parallels between her fate and that of Vicky Phelan are “striking and deeply disturbing”.

Ms Cullen, 58, is now due to receive an honorary Doctorate of Laws.

In 2011 she had tests in the Netherlands after becoming ill but some of the test results were lost. Unaware of this, her doctor assured her she was healthy.

However, in 2013, a review of old pathology results found a test for cancerous tissue which Ms Cullen’s doctor had conducted two years previously had, in fact, been positive.

By 2015, tests showed it had spread and the cancer was terminal due to the delay.

An independent medical consultant agreed on by both sides, concluded if the test result had not been lost, she would have had a 95% to 98% chance of being ‘cured’.

Instead, the diagnosis was terminal, with an 11 to 18 month life expectancy, which she continues to confound. Ms Cullen convinced the hospital they had not abided by any of the international norms for what is known as open disclosure after serious harm.

The disclosure protocols since put in place in the University Medical Centre Utrecht have already been adopted by the seven other teaching hospitals in the country.

The exact chain of events that led to the failure in communicating Ms Cullen’s test results to her doctor has never been established. Ms Cullen and her husband settled with the hospital for €545,000.

Ms Cullen’s book about her experiences will be available early next year.

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