‘Missed chances to save mum’

A young mother died of breast cancer after two missed opportunities to diagnose the disease, the High Court heard yesterday.

‘Missed chances to save mum’

Melissa Hamilton, from Donegal, was 34 when she passed away just eight days after she had given birth to her third child in 2011.

Her husband, Seamus Hamilton,

has launched a High Court action for damages as a result of the wrongful death of his wife Melissa in September 2011.

The widower, of Sallywood, Killgordon, Co Donegal along with his children, Jessica, 10, Darcey, 6, and Gracie, 3, have sued GP Eileen Coyne with an address at Health Centre, Stranorlar, Donegal, and the HSE.

It was claimed Dr Coyne had a duty of care to Mrs Hamilton to exercise all reasonable skill and care in the provision of medical services, including providing all services necessary to assist in the diagnosis and early treatment of her cancer.

The HSE, it is claimed, was responsible for the control, management, and operation of the Breast Centre North West triple assessment clinic in Letterkenny General Hospital and had a duty to safeguard Mrs Hamilton’s life.

It is claimed there was a failure to diagnose Mrs Hamilton’s cancer at an earlier, treatable stage and a negligent delay in achieving a cancer diagnosis.

Liability was admitted last month and the case, which includes a claim for nervous shock on Mr Hamilton’s part, is before the court for assessment of damages.

Mrs Hamilton began to attend Dr Coyne in November/December 2009 for symptoms relating to her right breast.

She was referred to and attended the breast clinic in Letterkenny in February 2010 for a scan and was told she had a benign cyst.

Senior counsel Eugene Gleeson said this was the first missed opportunity.

By June 2010, the pain was worse and there was a discharge from her breast. She was referred to the breast clinic again and diagnosed with mastitis, prescribed antibiotics, and referred back to her GP. This, counsel said, was the second missed opportunity. Over the next few months, it was claimed, Mrs Hamilton continued to consult her GP presenting with symptoms including a lump in her right breast.

In August 2011, she went to a locum GP who immediately referred her to Letterkenny breast clinic. She was diagnosed with invasive Grade 3 cancer and she had an 8cm tumour in her right breast.

Gracie was delivered by caesarean section at 28 weeks. Mrs Hamilton had to have a hysterectomy.

“She never left hospital after that Sunday [of the diagnosis],” said Mr Hamilton. “Grace was born by caesarean section on the Tuesday and she was only two pounds in weight. My hand was bigger than her.”

He said his wife saw her newborn baby but was not able to touch her and Gracie, who was not well, was transferred to Derry. He said over the next few days he travelled between Letterkenny and Derry. Mrs Hamilton had to have surgery because of internal bleeding and was kept in intensive care as her condition deteriorated.

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