Woman with terminal cancer sues GP over alleged negligence

A 37- year old mother of two with terminal cancer has launched a High Court action against a GP claiming alleged negligence over a visit to the doctor after she found a small lump under her arm while in the shower.

Christine Rossiter, Mr Justice Anothony Barr was told, has only months to live after a tumour was found in her breast in 2016 and she has developed secondary cancer including in her brain.

The young mother told the High Court today that she feels like a "ticking time bomb" after a new tumour was found in her brain last year.

Ms Rossiter has sued GP Norma Donlon over a consultation she had with the doctor in 2014.

Christine Rossiter pictured leaving the Four Courts today. Photo: Collins.

Opening the case, John Gordon, SC for Ms Rossiter, told the court Ms Rossiter contends the doctor did not examine her breasts but the doctor's note said 'declined breast exam.'

Counsel said the visit lasted 12 minutes and Ms Rossiter would say she was made feel she was worrying too much and was like a "little bit of a hypochondriac".

Counsel said Ms Rossiter also felt embarrassed and the doctor told her at her age she had nothing to worry about.

The woman claims the doctor did not examine her breasts but the doctor's note said 'declined breast exam'.

Counsel said Ms Rossiter left feeling a little foolish but very relieved after the 2014 visit.

In August 2016, Ms Rossiter felt a little lump on her left breast and went to another doctor who referred her for further investigation.

It turned out she did have a cancerous tumour in her left breast and was referred to a consultant.

Counsel said the cancer found was Stage 2 and while it was significant it was not life-threatening and would require chemotherapy.

Ms Rossiter went for immediate treatment and had a number of scans which showed she had secondary cancer in various parts of her body.

"What was a dreadful situation unfolded as absolutely calamitous," Mr Gordon said.

The secondaries in her lungs she was told lit up like a Christmas tree on the scan. It was Stage 4 breast cancer and it was terminal.

He said Ms Rossiter was devastated and she began a form of palliative care and treatment.

Counsel said Ms Rossiter was shell shocked and angry and embarrassed to be a dying person.

Counsel said at that stage it was confirmed she was unlikely to live more than five years and the cancer has since proved to be relentless.

Her prognosis at this stage counsel told the court is now a number of months.

"The tragedy here is the missing of the opportunity to detect the problem in September 2014," Counsel added.

He said Ms Rossiter will say she was not asked by Dr Donlon to examine her breasts and his side will contend it is highly unlikely Ms Rossiter would have refused a breast exam.

"If the examination occurred it would have identified a tumour in the left breast. That sadly did not happen," Counsel said.

"That little lump under her arm," he said, "never went away, it was found to be malignant in September 2016," Counsel said.

Christine Rossiter, Ceanchor Road, Baily, Howth, Co Dublin has sued GP Norma Donlon who was a doctor at Hilltop Surgery which is now known at Raheny Medical Centric Health at Hilltop Shopping Centre, Station Road, Raheny, Dublin.

It is claimed there was an alleged failure to perform an adequate examination of Ms Rossiter's armpit and an alleged failure to recommend examination of Ms Rossiter’s breast.

It is further claimed there was an alleged failure to adhere to the HSE National Breast Cancer GP referral guidelines and that Ms Rossiter was allegedly exposed to a risk of developing serious illness and injury.

The claims are denied and Dr Donlon contends that Ms Rossiter declined a breast examination when she came for a consultation on September 2014.

In evidence, Ms Rossiter said there was no way she declined a breast examination and it would be silly to do that.

She said when she was told her cancer was terminal she burst into tears and her partner Peter did the same.

"I don't even remember most of it. It was very distressing. I felt sick," she said.

The case before Mr justice Anthony Barr continues tomorrow.


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