One of the women whose cancer was misdiagnosed at a Dublin hospital has called on the Minister for Health to ensure all breast cases reported by the pathologist in question are reviewed in full.
Earlier this week an RTÉ Investigates report revealed how in 2010 a pathologist at St James’s Hospital misdiagnosed Alison McCormack’s cancer as non-invasive.
The error was only discovered by the hospital when Ms McCormack returned to St James’s in November 2012 with a lump in her neck.
At that point hospital staff realised the cancer had previously been misdiagnosed and was in fact an aggressive and invasive form of the disease.
However, St James’s Hospital delayed more than nine months in informing Ms McCormack of the error. Ms McCormack first learned of the misdiagnosis at a meeting she requested with the hospital in late 2013.
Ms McCormack’s case was one of over 300 breast cases analysed in 2010 by a then locum pathologist employed at St James’s Hospital.
The hospital reviewed Ms McCormack’s case, as well as a 10% sample of the pathologist’s case load.
However, the review concluded that further examination of the pathologist’s breast work was not necessary, and no evidence of incompetence was established.
The RTÉ Investigates report revealed how Ms McCormack’s solicitor, Rachael Liston had written to Minister for Health Simon Harris in June 2017 alerting him to "a matter of general public importance".
Ms Liston never received a response to her letter. A spokesperson for the Minister told RTÉ Investigates his response was delayed due to an "administrative error".
However, following this week’s programme, Ms Liston received a letter from Mr Harris in which he reiterated his support for the internal St James’s Hospital review stating: "The HSE National Cancer Control Programme and St James’s Hospital informed the Department that they are of the view that a review of all the other cases undertaken by the Pathologist involved is not warranted. Also, St James’s advise that no further missed diagnoses have been reported in the period since the review was completed."
Ms McCormack has expressed upset at the Minister’s response: "I told my story publicly to help other people. I have fought a long, hard, painful battle and if a full review of all these pathology cases is not ordered, all that pain and suffering will be for nothing."
In a further letter to the Minister, Ms Liston has also appealed to Mr Harris to reconsider, saying "It is quite concerning that the HSE National Cancer Control Programme do not appear to be concerned with regards to remaining patients reviewed by the pathologist in question and indeed that they are not following the Royal College of Pathologists guidelines.
"A review of the pathology in the remaining 270 patients is likely to take no longer than one week for an independent Pathologist to complete. I would be obliged to hear from you, by return, with confirmation that the additional 270 breast cancer cases will be reviewed."
Ms McCormack is one of two patients known to have their cancer misdiagnosed by the pathologist at St James’s Hospital.
The hospital has yet to confirm if the second woman has been informed of her misdiagnosis.