St James’s Hospital apologises for diagnosing wrong type of cancer

Stephen Mahady (58) settles action against the hospital on confidential terms

Stephen Mahady, of Newhall Court, Blessington Road, Saggart, Dublin pictured leaving the Four Courts  after his High Court action. Photograph: Collins Courts

Stephen Mahady, of Newhall Court, Blessington Road, Saggart, Dublin pictured leaving the Four Courts after his High Court action. Photograph: Collins Courts


A Dublin hospital has apologised in the High Court to a man over a misdiagnosis of the type of cancer he had.

The letter of apology from the CEO of St James’s Hospital, Lorcan Birthistle, was read as part of an otherwise confidential settlement of the action by 58-year old Stephen Mahady.

He was diagnosed as having small cell lung cancer, and was treated for that when he had another form of cancer, a skin cancer.

The letter stated: “On behalf of St James’s hospital I wish to express a sincere apology to you for the misdiagnosis of small cell lung cancer that was made in your case. This was a failing in the care provided to you and I apologise for this and for the consequential upset, distress and trauma that has caused you and those close to you. We strive to provide the highest standards of care to our patients and on this occasion we deeply regret having failed to reach those standards.”

The letter also stated lessons have been learned in relation to the hospital diagnostic procedures which will reduce the potential for it to happen again.

Mr Mahady , New Hall Court, Blessington Road, Dublin 24, had sued the hospital claiming he was incorrectly diagnosed with, and treated for, small cell lung cancer when he ought to have been diagnosed with a type of skin cancer, squamous cell carcinoma.

He claimed he suffered a loss of opportunity to have his condition treated.

He claimed, had he been diagnosed and treated appropriately in March 2016, he had a 20 per cent chance of a long term cure of his condition. It was claimed he now has no treatment option that would give him any chance of a long term cure.

Mr Mahady in February 2016 attended his GP complaining of shortness of breath on exertion and was sent for a chest X ray which showed a tumour in his right lung.

On March 9th 2016 he attended St James’s Hospital for further investigation and a broncoscopy was carried out and he was reported as showing small cell lung cancer.

A scan in April confirmed the presence of a tumour in the lung and lymph nodes and he started chemotherapy and radiation therapy.

In November 2016 he developed a swollen lymph node in his neck and a biopsy showed squamous cell carcinoma and he had his tonsils removed.

Subsequently the original lung biopsy slides from March 2016 were reviewed. It was claimed it became apparent the initial diagnosis of small cell lung cancer was incorrect and it should have been squamous cell carcinoma.

It was further claimed he was deprived of an opportunity to receive appropriate treatment for his condition and caused to receive incorrect treatment.

He received radiation therapy to his brain which would not have been carried out had the correct diagnosis been made, it was claimed.

Mr Mahady was informed about the incorrect diagnosis at a point in time when he was expecting and anticipating receiving good news in relation to his treatment, it was claimed.

It was claimed he was told a mistake had been made and an incorrect diagnosis made at the outset and the treatment he had received to date had been incorrect and unnecessary.

He was also told he would require further treatment but would never be cured and his illness would kill him, it was alleged.

The claims were denied.