Head of Dutch hospital apologises to widower of Adrienne Cullen for 'scapegoating' comment

A Dutch hospital responsible for the death through medical negligence of an Irish patient has apologised to the widower in the case after their CEO accused him of scapegoating her.

Head of Dutch hospital apologises to widower of Adrienne Cullen for 'scapegoating' comment

A Dutch hospital responsible for the death through medical negligence of an Irish patient has apologised to the widower in the case after their CEO accused him of scapegoating her.

Adrienne Cullen (58) passed away on New Year's Eve 2018 in Holland having fought cervical cancer.

Ms Cullen, who lived in the Netherlands with her husband Peter, successfully sued her hospital, UMC Utrecht, for medical negligence after it “lost” test results in 2011 that showed she had cervical cancer.

The hospital reportedly found the results two years later in 2013, by which time her cancer was terminal.

In an interview with the Irish Times, Professor Margaret Schneider of UMC Utrecht said she understood the anger of Peter Cluskey at the loss of his wife and his desire to "scapegoat" her.

Mr Cluskey wrote to Professor Schneider asking her to apologise for the comment which he deemed inappropriate particularly coming from a facility responsible for the untimely and recent death of his wife.

Adrienne Cullen.
Adrienne Cullen.

Professor Schneider apologised for her comment and said that the wording used was "inappropriate."

"Let me explain what happened during the interview. Responding to a question about your call for my resignation, I responded by saying that I understand your anger and sorrow.

"It was very unfortunate that I used the words “scapegoating me”, being a non-native English speaker. What I tried to say was that I understand that you hold people responsible and more specific the CEO of the hospital, being me.

"There was no intention what so ever to disrespect your feelings and opinions. Again, my deepest and sincerest apologies."

Meanwhile, a memorial lecture will be held in Ms Cullen's memory at the UMC Utrecht on Friday.

Adrienne Cullen was present for the first lecture in her name at the hospital on April 13, 2018.

Adrienne publicly criticised the hospital for the manner in which it had handled her case and for their attempts to silence her by demanding a non-disclosure agreement or ‘gagging clause” as part of her legal settlement.

The hospital admitted liability in the Cullen case but Adrienne received compensation of just €545,000.

However, this was a huge sum by Dutch standards and represented the biggest pay-out for medical negligence in the history of the State.

Adrienne Cullen in December 2018.
Adrienne Cullen in December 2018.

Prior to her death, Adrienne spoke of her belief that gagging clauses continue to perpetuate a culture of silence which allows medical negligence cases to continue unchecked.

She said: "We are handed over to the legal departments of hospitals like we are being thrown to the wolves. I will resist against that happening so no other patients are damaged in the future.

"What I have achieved in Utrecht isn't nothing but it is only the first step on a very long journey. It has to be Europe wide.

"There has to be an absolute ban in the EU on using confidentiality clauses which are gagging clauses in contracts between patients and their hospitals because they do not belong there. That would be a very good first step."

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