Hospital apologises to woman given wrong test result for breast cancer gene

Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital in Crumlin, Dublin provides genetic testing at its Genetics Department

A hospital has unreservedly apologised in the High Court to a woman who was given the incorrect ‘normal’ diagnosis for a breast cancer gene test nine years ago, but is now seriously ill with ovarian cancer.

Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital, Crumlin accepted it was negligent in the matter and in particular the misreporting of Martina Murphy’s gene test results.

She had sued Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital, Crumlin, Dublin which provides genetic testing at its Genetics Department, formerly knows as the National Centre for Medical Genetics, Cooley Road, Crumlin, Dublin.

“The Hospital acknowledges you have an extremely guarded prognosis and further acknowledges the very extensive pain, suffering and distress you have had to endure and continue to endure,” the letter of apology stated.


“The Hospital wishes to unreservedly apologise to you and your family for the profound upset, distress and injury caused to you as a result of this reporting error.”

The Hospital accepted that a letter of January 27th, 2010 was sent to Ms Murphy’s treating oncologist “wrongly reporting the results of the genetic testing for the BRCA gene”.

It also accepted the reporting error was not realised until she and her treating oncologist brought it to the Hospital’s attention in October 2018.

The Hospital further accepted that, in May 2018, having experienced a deterioration in her health, Ms Murphy attended a hospital where she “received a shock diagnosis that that you had extensive late stage cancer impacting on your chances of survival”.

The apology was read out as Ms Murphy, from Dublin, settled her High Court action on confidential terms.

The High Court heard last December that liability was admitted in the case.

Ms Murphy, who lives in the Dublin area, found out last year she had late-stage ovarian cancer. She was unable to attend the courts for the settlement hearing on Wednesday as she had to undergo chemotherapy.

Her counsel Richard Kean SC, instructed by solicitor Caoimhe Haughey, said Ms Murphy wished to thank the court for dealing with her case in an expeditious manner.

She also wanted to acknowledge the hospital’s assistance in granting her an interim payment towards a new drug which has allowed her to be pain free when with her family.

Counsel said it was a tragic case and the events have had a “catastrophic” effect on Ms Murphy.

Approving the settlement, Mr Justice Kevin Cross wished Ms Murphy well in her treatment.

It was “very refreshing” to hear in this and other cases of the “extraordinary cooperation” between the different sides and the HSE.

That was to be welcomed and, contrary to what people think, there was not necessarily an atmosphere of total confrontation in these cases.

In a statement after the case, issued by her solicitor, Ms Murphy said she hoped valuable lessons have been learned as a result of her case.

“I am now looking forward to getting on with my life and spending time with my family. I am very determined and remain positive notwithstanding my diagnosis,” she said.

Ms Murphy in February 2004 was diagnosed with breast cancer and had a lumpectomy followed by chemotherapy and made a full recovery.

Around 2007/2008, she became aware a member of her family had a significant history of breast cancer and it was decided she should be referred to the Crumlin hospital and the former National Centre for Medical Genetic Testing to see if she had the BRCA 1 or BRCA 2 cancer-linked gene.

If she had the gene mutation it was contended certain treatment including a hysterectomy would have to be considered.

She had the genetic test and it was sent to a laboratory in Birmingham.

On January 27th, 2010, she got a letter in relation to the genetic testing which stated “no alteration was identified”, referring to the BRCA gene but the laboratory report was not sent to her or her treating doctors.

In May 2018, she experienced a deterioration in her health, was losing weight and had a loss of appetite. In early August 2018, she had pain in her left side and a CT scan showed up a 5cm ovarian tumour.

In October of last year, Ms Murphy’s medical team sought all records in relation to her genetic testing, including the lab report of 2009. She then learned for the first time that the reporting in the January 2010 letter to the effect there was no mutation and or pathogenic change in the BRCA gene was wrong.