Family of dead woman accuse hospital of 'systematic failure'

Tue, May 15, 2012, 01:00

THE FAMILY of a woman whose lung cancer was only detected after her death have accused the hospital where she died of “systems failure” and of dismissing their concerns during the woman’s final days.

An inquest into the death of Teresa Doyle (50), Marian Avenue, Carrick-on-Suir, Co Tipperary, heard she died from a rare form of lung cancer that can be difficult to detect but her niece was told in the weeks before she died cancer was “not on the radar” as far as the doctors were concerned.

Evidence was given that Ms Doyle was treated for uterine cancer in 1997, was a lifelong smoker and was admitted to South Tipperary General Hospital in Clonmel in May 2007, suffering shortness of breath, vomiting, severe pains, inability to swallow food, dehydration and fainting.

It was her third admission to the hospital since April 24th, and her family asked doctors several times if lung cancer was a possibility, to be told that it wasn’t. The inquest heard the cancer was only found on her lungs in the form of “widespread” diffuse tumours at a cellular level during a postmortem.

The diagnosis made by her medical team in hospital was a reactivation of Behçet’s disease, a rare rheumatic illness from which she had previously suffered.

The deceased’s last admission was on May 18th, three days before she died. After Ms Doyle was moved to the intensive care unit, relatives were told by a doctor that she was responding to an antibiotic and there was “some hope”. A nurse later told them the doctor had spoken to the wrong family.

Martina Sinnott, Ms Doyle’s niece, said that on May 15th she told consultant Dr Isweri Pillay she thought the symptoms pointed towards lung cancer and asked why her aunt was not referred for a bronchoscopy. The consultant told her “cancer is not on the radar”.

In her evidence Dr Pillay said she “probably” said this but it was earlier, during Teresa’s first admission to hospital. Dr Pillay agreed with David Kennedy SC, for the family, that Teresa “wouldn’t have suffered as much” if she was correctly diagnosed.

Consultant radiologist Dr John Hynes said there was “nothing” on a CT scan carried out on Ms Doyle’s chest to suggest there may have been a tumour.

The deceased’s daughter, Katie Ryan, said the family’s concerns were “never addressed nor acknowledged” in the hospital.

After the inquest, the family said they were not interested in taking a negligence case or in compensation, but wanted to help ensure what happened to Teresa would not happen again. The jury recorded a verdict in line with the pathological evidence.