Family of Cork woman who died of cancer aged 30 settle case alleging delay in diagnosis

The court heard that Lauren McDonald's young daughter had to watch her mother for over three years in dire abdominal distress
Family of Cork woman who died of cancer aged 30 settle case alleging delay in diagnosis

Lauren's mother had sued the HSE over the care her daughter received at Mallow General Hospital. File photo: Gavin Browne

The family of a young mother who died of cancer settled for €800,000 an action against the HSE and three medics over an alleged delay in her diagnosis on Friday.

Lauren McDonald, Mallow, Co. Cork, was only 30 years of age and the mother of a five-year-old daughter when she died due to complications relating to her colon cancer in 2009.

In the High Court, the McDonald family counsel, Dr John O'Mahony SC, said it was their contention that had Lauren's case been properly investigated her cancer would have been discovered. Counsel said it was a very tragic case and Lauren's colon cancer was not diagnosed until two years after she first presented with symptoms.

Her young daughter Gracie, he said, had to watch her mother for over three years in dire abdominal distress. Counsel said a diagnosis of constipation had been made in Lauren's case. The settlement which was reached after mediation is without admission of liability.

Among the claims, the High Court heard are that Lauren McDonald attended her GP's surgery at least six times between May 2005 and 2007 complaining of pain and was also seen at Mallow General Hospital on a number of occasions.

In August 2007 when Ms McDonald was only five-and-a-half stone in weight she was transferred to the care of another hospital where, after a number of procedures, her cancer was diagnosed. She died on January 20, 2009, at 30 years of age.

Approving the settlement, Mr Justice Paul Coffey said it was a very sad and tragic case “where a young mother had died in the prime of her life.” The judge offered his deepest sympathy to Gracie, Lauren's parents Jennifer and Denis McDonald and wished them all the best for the future.

Allegations

Lauren's mother, Jennifer McDonald of Shanballymore, Mallow, Co. Cork, had sued the HSE over the care her daughter received at Mallow General Hospital. She also sued a consultant geriatrician at the hospital, Suzanne Timmons.

She also sued GP Catherine Kelleher with a practice at Newtwopot House, Doneraile, Mallow, Co. Cork, and a doctor who had worked there as a locum, Dr Ann Marie Norton.

It was claimed there was an alleged failure to investigate, diagnose, manage or treat Lauren's medical symptoms and complaints in a timely fashion, adequately or at all.

Against the HSE and Ms Timmons it was claimed there was an alleged failure to reach a proper diagnosis of Lauren's condition in a timely fashion and the clear symptoms, signs and clinical history that pointed to a likely cancer diagnosis were allegedly disregarded.

There was, it was further claimed, an alleged failure to have any proper regard for or to heed the clinical signs and symptoms which occurred after Lauren presented to Mallow Hospital.

It was claimed against GP Catherine Kelleher and Locum Dr Ann Marie Norton there was an alleged failure to take any proper heed on the continuing complaints made by Lauren McDonald between May 2005 and August 2006 and thereafter and an alleged failure to refer Lauren for appropriate specialist investigations, diagnosis, management care and treatment such as was warranted by her symptoms, complaints and her condition.

There was, it was further claimed, an allegedly unwarranted delay in taking the appropriate steps and Lauren was allegedly deprived of the opportunity of a timely diagnosis and care. All the claims were denied by all of the defendants.

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