Hospital apologises over death of 31-year-old mother who suffered cervical cancer complications

Nicola Phillips, a mother of three, died of complications of cervical cancer nine years ago.
Hospital apologises over death of 31-year-old mother who suffered cervical cancer complications

A representative of Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda, read a letter of apology to her husband David Phillips. File photo

A hospital has apologised in court and acknowledged the deficits in care which resulted in the untimely death of a mother of three.

Office administrator Nicola Phillips was 31 years of age when she died of complications of cervical cancer nine years ago.

The Phillips family counsel, Dr John O’Mahony SC, told the High Court it was a very sad case where nothing was done about a smear test which showed a pre-cancerous abnormality. Counsel said Mrs Phillips died four years later but had the result of the smear test been identified when it was taken in 2008 she would have been referred for further investigation and the outcome would have been significantly different.

In the High Court yesterday, her husband settled his action against the HSE over the wrongful death of the young mother for €430,000. As part of the settlement a letter of apology to Mr Phillips on behalf of the gynaecology department and hospital management of Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda, Co. Louth, was read to the court.

It said it wished “to acknowledge the deficits of care which resulted in the untimely death of your wife Nicola. We recognise that this loss has had a profound and devastating effect on you and your family.” The apology which was from the hospital general manager Fiona Brady added: “I wish to offer my heartfelt apologies for the shortcomings in the care providers and the distress suffered by you and your family as a result.” 

David Phillips (42) of Ashfield View, Drogheda, Co. Louth, had sued the HSE.

The hospital's treatment of Nicola Phillips

Mrs Phillips, during her pregnancy with her third child in 2007, experienced bleeding and other gynaecological complaints. Her condition worsened after the birth of her third child and she received regular treatment at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda.

A number of investigations were carried out in 2008 including a cervical smear sample which was taken in May 2008. On June 13, 2008, the smear sample was reported as showing severe dyskaryosis corresponding to a pre-cancerous abnormality and the advice was for a colposcopy referral.

Cervical cancer was diagnosed in June 2009 but despite six cycles of chemotherapy Mrs Phillips died on April 24, 2012.

It was claimed that at no material time were the results of the 2008 smear test or the recommended colposcopy procedure ever brought to the attention of Mrs Phillips and a colposcopy was not carried out as advised.

The HSE admitted there should have been a colposcopic assessment and Mrs Phillips would then have had a procedure which would have probably resulted in a positive outcome for her.

It further admitted that appropriate action was not taken on foot of the results of the May 2008 smear test and admit that the death of the mother of three was a wrongful death.

In June 2018, Mr Phillips was notified for the first time by the HSE of the existence and results of the May 2008 smear test.

Approving the settlement, Mr Justice Kevin Cross offered his sincere sympathy to Mr Phillips and the wider family.

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