Unnecessary Mastectomy Claim for Compensation Starts at High Court

The High Court has started hearing an unnecessary mastectomy claim for compensation, made by a woman who alleges a missed diagnosis of breast cancer.

In November 2011, retired schoolteacher Eileen Fennessy from Piltown in County Kilkenny had her fourth precautionary mammogram via the “Breast Check” National Breast Screening Programme. The result of the mammogram came back as normal but, in October 2012, Eileen´s GP identified a large mass in her right breast and referred her to Waterford Regional Hospital.

At the Waterford Regional Hospital, an ultrasound and biopsy confirmed the presence of a grade 2 carcinoma and Eileen immediately underwent a course of chemotherapy. Unfortunately the chemotherapy treatment failed to reduce the carcinoma and, in April 2013, sixty-nine year old Eileen had her right breast removed in a mastectomy procedure.

Following her discharge from hospital, Eileen sought legal advice and made an unnecessary mastectomy claim for compensation. She alleged in her claim against the Health Service Executive (HSE) that the mammogram taken in November 2011 should have raised suspicions of cancer and she should have recalled for a further investigation.

The failure to conduct a further investigation – it was alleged – exposed Eileen to the unnecessary risk of her condition deteriorating, the unnecessary chemotherapy treatment and an unnecessary mastectomy. The HSE denied the allegations and contested the unnecessary mastectomy claim for compensation. As a result, the case proceeded to the High Court in Dublin.

At the High Court, Eileen´s barrister told Mr Justice Kevin Cross that, although the treatment was successful in removing the cancer – and subsequent check-ups have failed to reveal the disease manifesting in other locations – the underlying diagnosis for Eileen´s future is “extremely serious and devastating”. The case continues at the High Court.