Rebecca O’Malley’s Breast Cancer Misdiagnosis

Breast cancer is the 3rd most common cancer in Ireland, with an annual incidence between 2015 and 2017 of 3,168 according to the Irish Cancer Society. Irish women have a 1 in 12 chance of developing breast cancer in their lifetime. However, the National Breast Cancer Foundation states that breast cancer treated in stage 1 has a 100% survival rate. The survival rates drop significantly with delayed diagnosis, sadly even though this is the case breast cancer misdiagnosis have been all too common across Ireland in recent years.

Rebecca O’Malley believes her chances of surviving the disease have plummeted as a result of delay caused by the misdiagnosis. This is in-line with the slew of misdiagnoses which have become prevalent across the country. Ms O’Malley claimed she was incorrectly given the “all-clear” following a breast biopsy in March 2005. In March 2006, her GP referred her for a second biopsy because he was concerned about a persistent thickening in her breast. This test returned positive for breast cancer. Instead of waiting weeks for surgery so she decided to go to London for a private mastectomy and chemotherapy instead.

Liability Contested Over Breast Cancer Misdiagnosis

Breast Cancer Misdiagnosis

Breast Cancer Misdiagnosis

In July 2012, the HSE admitted liability, apologizing to Ms O’Malley and her family as part of the settlement. The HSE had vigorously contested liability in the case, Ms O’Malley stating she had to ‘relive this nightmare again and again for four years, because of the adversarial stand of the HSE’. She stated that despite clear evidence of a misdiagnosis, she was left suffering for years. The delay resulted in her chances of surviving plummeted from 80 to 56%. As O’Malley stated this is “little more than the flip of a coin”.

Following pressure on then-Health Minister Mary Harney, the Health Information and Quality Authority carried out an investigation. The report stated that “the impression gained was of a system that delayed or avoided difficult decisions and gave priority to listening to those at a national level rather than to their patients and frontline staff”.

Improvements to the System

As other cases of breast cancer misdiagnosis come to light, a number of key changes have been introduced. Breast cancer care is now confined to eight specialist centres with each patient’s case subject to review specialists.

Though these changes are welcome, families across Ireland continue to suffer from misdiagnoses. If you or a loved one have been a victim of such a failure, legal advice and guidance is available from the team at Power Solicitors, Limerick. We, at Power Solicitors have unparalleled experience in the area of medical negligence and welcome your call. Please contact Melanie Power direct on by email: [email protected], or phone: 061-513055