SC –v- HSE

The Plaintiff, who was only 24 at the time, attended her General Practitioner in 2005 complaining of lumps and pain/tenderness in her left breast. Her GP referred her to the local Breast Clinic at the Regional Hospital where the staff carried out a physical examination of the Plaintiff, but did not carry out an ultrasound or biopsy. The Plaintiff was reassured, but continued to have concerns and returned again in October 2009 still complaining of the lump in her breast which she felt had increased in size. A physical examination was again carried out and the Plaintiff reassured that there was nothing of concern and she simply had lumpy breasts. Unfortunately no radiological imaging was carried out on this occasion either. The Plaintiff returned to the Breast Clinic a third time in March 2011 with a significant lump in her breast. An ultrasound and biopsy was carried out and she was diagnosed with Breast Cancer. At that point the Cancer, which was perfectly treatable in 2005 and 2009, was no longer curable despite extensive treatment and mastectomy together with axillary clearance. As a result, the Plaintiff’s 10 year life expectancy was severely reduced with an extremely poor prognosis.

The Plaintiff obtained expert oncological and radiological opinion which criticised the failure of the Breast Clinic to carry out any radiological imaging of the Plaintiff during her attendances in 2005 and 2009 in particular ultrasound imaging. Due to the Plaintiff’s young age at the time of her presentations a mammogram would not be standard practice but, it was alleged, an ultrasound scan would have been required. This is in accordance with standard protocols in existence both in the UK and Ireland which mandate triple assessment of patients for diagnosing breast cancer:

  1. Physical examination
  2. Radiological imaging – mammogram or ultrasound
  3. Biopsy

Ultrasound on the balance of probabilities would not have detected the tumour in 2005 but would have done so in 2009 at a time when it was likely that the Plaintiff would have had a much better survival rate. 

Proceedings were issued in March 2012 and the Defence was received in late November 2012. Liability was denied by the Defendant in the Defence, and an early trial date was sought from the Court due to the Plaintiff’s condition. Following the fixing of a trial date for the beginning of March 2013, mediation was sought by both parties to the proceedings. The mediation meeting took place early in the New Year and proved to be very successful. The Plaintiff obtained a significant six figure settlement together with her legal costs only 10 months after proceedings were issued. 


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