Surgeon says he will not repeat cancer test mistake


A surgeon whose elderly cancer patient did not receive vital scan results for 10 weeks has given an undertaking at a Medical Council fitness-to-practise inquiry not to repeat the mistake.

Consultant colorectal surgeon Paul Neary, who practises at the Hermitage Clinic and Tallaght hospital in Dublin, had faced seven allegations of poor professional performance in connection with his treatment of Mrs D (78), a private patient from the midlands, who died in 2011.

They included that he failed to take any or appropriate steps following an MRI scan, failed to inform Mrs D of the results of the scan at an appointment in March 2010 and also allegedly told Mrs D and her daughter that the tests were normal.

The proceedings however were halted after section 67 of the Medical Practitioners’ Act 2007 was invoked.

Under this provision, a formal undertaking was given to the inquiry by Mr Neary not to repeat the conduct complained of.

At the direction of the inquiry committee, chaired by Dr John Monaghan, he also agreed to procure a report of his administrative systems by a reputable reviewer and send it to the Medical Council within 12 months.

Mrs D, a mother of nine, first saw Mr Neary on December 17th, 2009, at the Hermitage Clinic. She had bowel incontinence and suspected prolapse of the uterus.

Mr Neary ordered five tests including an MRI scan. The scan was performed on January 13th. It showed an irregular mass on the right ovary, but Mrs D did not get the results until April.

Surgeon’s evidence

In evidence yesterday, Mr Neary said his secretary always put test results on his desk and filed them after he signed them off.

“For whatever reason,” she got the report in January and “filed it inadvertently”. He did not see it until April 8th, he said. When the report did reach him, he was “deeply shocked” and “a bit distraught”.

He phoned Mrs D’s daughter the following day and told her there was “something suspicious” on the scan. The family chose to bring Mrs D to University College Hospital Galway where she was operated on.

She died on June 22nd, 2011.

Under cross-examination by Patrick Leonard, Mr Neary denied his review of the MRI results on April 8th was triggered by a phone call from Mrs D’s daughter. He said it was a “coincidence” and he was going to look at the chart anyway.