Hospital apologises over death of mother of three after cervical cancer diagnosis

Husband secured €430,000 settlement after suing HSE over wrongful death of his wife (31)

Dr John O’Mahony SC told the court  it was a very sad case where nothing was done about a smear test which showed a pre-cancerous abnormality and Nicola Phillips died four years later. Photograph: Chris Maddaloni/Collins

Dr John O’Mahony SC told the court it was a very sad case where nothing was done about a smear test which showed a pre-cancerous abnormality and Nicola Phillips died four years later. Photograph: Chris Maddaloni/Collins

 

A hospital has apologised before the High Court and acknowledged deficits in care which resulted in the untimely death of a young mother of three.

Nicola Phillips was aged 31 when she died of complications of cervical cancer nine years ago.

Dr John O’Mahony SC, for her family, told the court on Wednesday it was a very sad case where nothing was done about a smear test which showed a pre-cancerous abnormality and Ms Phillips died four years later.

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, he said.

On Wednesday, her husband, David Phillips, secured a €430,000 settlement of his action against the HSE over the wrongful death of his wife.

As part of the settlement, a letter of apology was read in court to Mr Phillips on behalf of the gynaecology department and hospital management of Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda, Co Louth.

Devastating

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, 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.”

Mr Phillips (42), of Ashfield View, Drogheda, had sued the HSE.

It was claimed that Ms 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 the hospital.

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

Chemotherapy

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

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

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

It further admitted appropriate action was not taken on foot of the results of the May 2008 smear test and Ms Phillips’s death 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.