The family of a young woman who died due to a missed cancer diagnosis has received compensation from the HSE.
In April 2009, Sharon McEneaney (thirty-one years of age) of Carrickmacross, County Monaghan, died from a cancerous tumour that grew in her abdomen. She had been diagnosed with cancer nine months prior to her death, after it being misdiagnosed when she had sought earlier medical treatment.
Sharon first sought medical attention after experiencing intense pain in her lower abdomen. She attended the emergency department of Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda eighteen months prior to her death, and was attended to by medical staff. The tumour that was growing in her abdomen was not found by medical staff.
The cancerous tumour grew for another nine months due to this missed diagnosis. Sharon continued to experience pain, and sought further medial attention. In June 2008, she underwent a biopsy due to the intervention for Dr Rory O’Hanlon, a former TD. By the time the tumour was recognised as cancerous, it had grown too large to be treated. Sharon died of the cancer the following year.
An investigation into Sharon’s death was launched by the Health Service Executive (HSE).The investigators complied a report of 38 recommendations to prevent future failures to diagnose cancer. In January 2012, Dr Etop Samson Akan was found guilty of a poor professional performance by the Medical Council of Ireland’s Fitness to Practise Committee for his treatment of Sharon.
The case was brought to the High Court where it was heard by Ms Justice Mary Irvine. The court heard the General Manager of the Louth & Meath Hospital Group-Margaret Swords read out an apology to Sharon’s family, admitting that the hospital had failed in their treatment of Sharon. The apology also stated that the hospital was making progress in making the changes required to prevent a similar incident from happening again. The court heard in the five years following Sharon’s death, the hospital had implemented six of the HSE’s recommendations.
The HSE made an offer of compensation to Sharon’s family for their failure to diagnose cancer. The two legal teams entered negotiations, and the offer of compensation was valued at €62,500. Sharon’s funeral and other expenses related to her death have been covered by €10,000 settlement, and a further €27,100 in compensation has been awarded for the failure to diagnose the cancer to Sharon’s mother Jane. The remainder of the settlement is being shared between Sharon’s siblings.
Ms Justice Mary Irvine closed the hearing after commending Sharon´s family for their courage, and commented “You have shown marvellous fortitude in the face of such a loss”.