University Hospital Kerry Scan Review – The legal rights of the individual patients affected
With the news that a total number of 204 patients of University Hospital Kerry have been recalled for repeat imaging and that there was a misdiagnosis or delay in diagnosis of at least 10 patients, it is a time of great concern for the Kerry, north Cork and south Limerick patients involved. While it has been confirmed that it was a locum consultant radiologist, who no longer works at the hospital, that caused the widespread problems, patients are now left wondering what options they might have by way of recourse.
The HSE has confirmed 10 cases of serious harm, all apparently relating to cancer misdiagnosis. Medical negligence can occur in many ways but a negligent delay in diagnosing cancer is one of the most distressing for patients. A delay in diagnosis of any illness, and in particular cancer, unavoidably results in a delay in diagnosis and a consequent delay in treatment. When this happens, the affected person may experience a worsening of their condition. In some cases, they may need more complicated, dangerous or expensive treatment as a result. In the most tragic cases, a person may even die as a result of injuries or an illness that otherwise may have been treated or preventable. What is less apparent but very harmful, nonetheless, is the psychological injury a misdiagnosis or delay in diagnosis can inflict. For a patient who has taken the necessary steps to seek out a diagnosis, or in particular an early diagnosis of cancer, and who has been assured that they are symptom-free, the reality of being told at a much later stage that there was an error in their diagnosis and that now their treatment has been delayed, is devastating. The reality is that for many of these patients, they may have avoided prolonged treatment and perhaps a reoccurrence of cancer, if their scans had not been reviewed negligently.
While only 10 patients are deemed to have suffered a significant or serious misdiagnosis and delay in diagnosis, there is likely also to be many who have suffered delays in diagnosis or a misdiagnosis leading to a lesser degree of harm. This level of harm, which may in most cases be psychological in nature, should be investigated by each patient and each person’s rights and options should be discussed with a solicitor.
Who is Responsible for the harm caused by the misread imaging?
As is the case with most hospital crises, it is more than likely that the systems and workloads in place at the Department of Radiology in Tralee had a detrimental effect on patient safety and patient rights, as opposed to the fault resting solely on the consultant radiologist involved. Those affected should take legal advice in relation to investigating the full extent of the damage suffered by them as a result of the delay in diagnosis. The damage caused may include physical, pyschological and financial damage.