Woman with breast cancer launches action over care received at hospitals in Dublin and Cork

By Ann O'Loughlin

A mother of two woman who has breast cancer has launched a High Court action over the care she received at two hospitals.

Joan O’Sullivan who has a mutation gene which means she is at higher risk of cancer has claimed she has suffered an alleged delay in the diagnosis and treatment of her cancer and as a result her life expectancy may have been reduced.

The Tipperary woman has sued St James's Hospital, Dublin claiming she suffered an alleged perforation to her bowel during an operation in 2013 which was part of a cancer preventative plan and as a result she has claimed plans for a preventative full mastectomy were derailed.

She has also sued the HSE over her care at Cork University Hospital where she claims an 8mm tumour in her right breast was not diagnosed when she had a scan in 2016 and when the tumour was diagnosed 522 days later it was 3cms in size.

Joan O'Sullivan, Mr Justice Michael Hanna was told has since had twenty weeks of chemotherapy and has had a right sided mastectomy.

Joan O'Sullivan McDonagh Court, Old Road, Cashel, Co Tipperary has sued St James's Hospital claiming in relation to the 2013 procedure that there was an alleged failure to exercise reasonable care and skill and and her bowel was allegedly perforated. She has also sued the HSE claiming there was an alleged failure to identify or to heed adequately or at all a signficiant abornmality in an MRI scan carried out in Cork University Hospital in April 2016 and there was an allegedly delayed diagnosis of triple negative breast cancer in her right breast.

Mr Justice Hanna was told that St James's Hospital and the HSE deny the claims but the HSE this week by letter admitted admitted a breach of duty in relation to some of the care afforded at Cork University Hospital.

Her counsel Patrick Treacy SC told the court Ms O'Sullivan who has lost members of her extended family to cancer was diagnosed as a carrier of the BRCA1 mutation gene which means the person has a higher risk of ovarian and breast cancer.

Counsel said it was decided there would be ongoing monitoring of Ms O'Sullivan at St James's Hospital and a treatment plan was put in place. He said it was decided Ms O'Sullivan would have a procedure as an outpatient on March 6, 2013 to remove her ovaries and Fallopian tubes and a double mastectomy was expected to be carried out in the Autumn of 2013.

Counsel said on March 6 "tragically and unfortunately" a simple and profound error was made and it was their case that an alleged perforation of Ms O'Sullivan's bowel took place during the suturing after the laparoscopic procedure.

It was their case that the alleged perforation should not have happened and the post op care allegedly fell below the standard of the hospital.

Mr Treacy said Ms O'Sullivan was discharged form hospital when she was in significant pain.

Days later she was admitted to another hospital feeling unwell and with a raised temperature. She was advised she had sepsis and E coli and she had to have another operation.

Mr Treacy said Ms O'Sullivan's plans for a preventative double mastectomy in Autumn 2013 were derailed as the woman was not well, had abdominal pain and she was suffering from post traumatic stress and having flashbacks relating to the March 2013 procedure.

On October 19, 2017 she was diagnosed with cancer in the right breast. Counsel said if Ms O'Sullivan had a mastectomy in Autumn 2013, she would never have developed the two lumps in her right breast.

Counsel said on April 29, 2016 Ms O'Sullivan had an MRI scan at Cork University Hospital. Counsel said it was their case that on this occasion in which a tumor of 8 mms wide was present in her right breast, but their was no biopsy.

When she next had a scan in October 2017 the tumour Mr Treacy said was 3cms in size and it was the worst type of cancer and the most aggressive and most severe. Counsel said it was their case this cancer should have been detected 522 days earlier.

The case continues.


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