Man whose cancer missed at Wexford told to ‘go drink a Guinness’

‘Wondering if the bowel cancer could have been detected earlier can be unbearable at times’

One of the patients whose cancer was missed at Wexford General Hospital was told to “go home and drink a Guinness” when he attended with signs of the disease.

Dee Fitzpatrick said her 72-year-old father Pat was given the advice when being discharged from the hospital in February 2015. One month later, he was recalled for a test which revealed he had colon cancer.

Thirteen cancer cases at the hospital were “presumed missed” when colonoscopies were performed on patients, according to a review published on Thursday. They include patients who had tests under the national BowelScreen programme and others who were referred for tests by their GPs after showing symptoms.

In February 2013, Pat was one of the first patients in Wexford to take up the offer of a colonoscopy under the BowelScreen programme that began weeks earlier. The test performed by the consultant identified in the review only as “Doctor Y” purported to give him the all-clear for bowel cancer.


Two years later, however, he went to Wexford’s emergency department complaining of symptoms indicative of possible cancer. “The doctors discharged him and told him to go home and have a Guinness,” according to Ms Fitzpatrick.

Just one month later, Pat received a call from the hospital asking him to have a repeat colonoscopy. He was paid €200 in expenses to attend for the test in St Vincent’s Hospital in Dublin.

This showed he had bowel cancer. Experts who have reviewed his original test now believe the cancer was present at the time but was missed.

Ms Fitzpatrick welcomed the thoroughness of the review into the missed colonoscopies and the efforts made to communicate with affected families this week.

However, she said the report can never erase the “big question mark” of whether her father’s cancer could have been avoided if it were detected earlier.

“Dad has fought one hell of a fight, overcoming a partial lung removal, septic shock, almost two months in intensive care in the Mater Hospital, radiation therapy, eight rounds of chemotherapy, four episodes of pneumonia and three cardiac arrests and now cancer in his brain which required more radiation with debilitating side effects.”

“While the journey for a family through the diagnosis and treatment of cancer is painful and stressful, the added layer of wondering if the bowel cancer could have been detected earlier can be unbearable at times.”

She said her family recognised the vital importance of early screening and detection for cancer and would like to see confidence restored in the bowel screening programme.

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen is a former heath editor of The Irish Times.