Man claims wife died sooner than she should have due to negligence

Businessman and GAA player Barry Comer takes High Court case against private clinic

A well-known businessman has claimed before the High Court that his late wife was told to get bed rest after undergoing ultrasound scans at St James Hospital Private Clinic when in fact she had an aggressive form of terminal cancer.

Lynsey Comer, a 36-year-old mother of two young children, died from cancer in early August 2017.

Her husband Barry Comer, who is the Managing Director of the Comer Group Ireland, and a son of one of the group's founders Luke Comer accepts that his wife had terminal cancer.

He claims that she died between six to 12 months sooner than she should have due to the clinic’s alleged misdiagnosis of the scans and negligence.

He claims Lyndsey should have been diagnosed as having cancer following scans performed on her at the Clinic in October 2015 and January 2016, after she complained of pain from a lump on her lower left side.

Following the ultrasounds of her abdomen, conducted by different radiologists, his wife was diagnosed as having a large bilateral rectus sheath haematoma, which she was allegedly told may have been caused by low level bleeding into a muscle.

After the scans she was advised to take bed rest.

However, her pain persisted, and she was referred to the Hermitage Clinic in February 2016.

After undergoing various procedures, including a CT scan and biopsy, Lyndsey was diagnosed in early March 2016 as having cancer, which had spread from her colon.

Mr Comer said in evidence that he had brought the case so “nobody else has to go through” what he and his family had endured.

He said that his view of an ultrasound is that you “can see a baby’s heart at ten weeks of age, how can you not see a tumour?”

He accepts that all professional “learn from their mistakes” so “these things don’t happen again,”.

Mr Comer, from Dunboyne, Co Meath who is represented in the proceedings by Oisin Quinn SC, Patrick Treacy SC Louise Fogarty instructed by solicitor Andrew Turner claims that had his wife been properly diagnosed in October 2015 her life would have been lengthened by between six to 12 months.

Experts for Mr Comer have also said that her quality of life during that period would have been better, as the tumour would have been much smaller and easier to manage had she been diagnosed a few months earlier than she was.

On behalf of their family Mr Comer has sued Mr Lorcan Birthistle in his capacity as CEO and nominee of St James Hospital and its staff, including those who provide services at the private clinic, seeking damages for the alleged wrongful death due to negligence, of his wife.

He also seeks damages for mental distress and for the family’s loss of her company and care.

In its defence the defendant represented by Derry O’Donovan SC, with Rory White Bl , accepts that the scans were misinterpreted, and she should have been referred for CT scans.

However, It denies the claims and says that her death was not caused by the delay in her diagnosis, or that an earlier identification of her cancer would have made a difference to her treatment or survival.

It also claims that her cancer had a genetic mutation which made it more resistant to standard chemotherapy and she would have sadly died when she did.

The action opened before Ms Justice Leonie Reynolds on Tuesday.

Mr Comer, who has played Gaelic football at various levels for Meath and represented London in the Connacht GAA Championship spoke of the shock and devastation he and his family suffered as a result of the diagnosis in March 2016, after they learned that his wife’s cancer was terminal.

She had also suffered additional and severe complications caused both by the tumour and the several difficult bouts of chemotherapy she underwent, which were done on a palliative basis.

Mr Comer said that he and his children would have taken those extra months “any day”.

“I’d pay whatever it would cost to get an extra day in this world if I was told I was terminal” as “every day counts” he added.

“My view is that I don’t want this to happen to anybody else. I don’t want to see any mother misdiagnosed, or father,” he said.

The hearing continues.