The Plaintiff -v- Health Service Executive
The Health Service Executive (HSE) and two hospitals have apologised to a man who claimed his rare
malignant tumour went undiagnosed for nearly seven years.
His counsel, Dr John O’Mahony SC, instructed by Martin Kerrigan Solicitor of Berwick Solicitors told
the court at the ruling that the Plaintiff first attended St Luke’s General Hospital in Kilkenny in 2009
for a scan as he had lower back pain. The October 2009 scan showed a small mass of about 1.3cm in
his heart, but counsel said it was incorrectly identified as a lymph node.
The Plaintiff was reviewed in St Luke’s Hospital the following month and referred to University
Hospital Waterford and seen there, but he was assured there was no reason for concern. He was
referred back to St Luke’s Hospital in August 2015 as he had recurrent pain.
A CT scan in January 2016 showed a very large mass in the abdominal region which was now
between 10cm and 13cm in size. Counsel said it was then considered to be inoperable, but he was
offered a ground breaking surgery at St Vincent’s University Hospital in Dublin.
Before the surgery, the Plaintiff underwent chemotherapy to shrink the tumour. During the 10-hour
long surgery in May 2016, he suffered a cardiac arrest, and shock therapy was required to save his
life, counsel said. Part of his heart, his right kidney and part of his gallbladder were removed.
Mr Justice Paul Coffey said it was “an extraordinary story that the health service that nearly killed
him was the same health service that saved his life”.
In a letter of apology, the HSE and St Luke’s General Hospital said they would like to make an
“unreserved apology” to the Plainitff and his family “for the failings in care”.
“We deeply regret the failings and acknowledge the distress these failings have caused you and your
family,” it added.
In a second letter read to the court, University Hospital Waterford said it wished to “apologise
unreservedly for the deficits in your care and acknowledge the distress this has caused to you and
The Plaintiff had sued the HSE, which admitted a breach of duty in that the first CT scan of October
2009 demonstrated sufficient findings to require a follow-up with cross-sectional imaging, and this
was not done. It was also admitted had the Plaintiff’s cancer been detected earlier he would, as a
matter of probability, have required surgery only.
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