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Family 'torn apart' by cancer misdiagnosis, says widower

THE widower of a woman who died of breast cancer despite two missed opportunities to diagnose the disease has said his family has been "torn apart".

A hospital has apologised to Melissa Hamilton's husband and a settlement of €900,000 for their three children was also approved yesterday at the High Court.

Outside court, Seamus Hamilton said if only the cancer had been found sooner, his wife would still be with them.

"My family has been torn apart. Every Christmas, every birthday and every special occasion will forever be tainted by this loss," he said.


His children have to grow up without a mother and "I have had to spend and will have to spend the rest of my life without my wife", he said.

"An integral and monumental part of my children's life has been taken from them.

"All the children, except my eldest, Jessica, will have no memory of their mother, and because Jessica does remember she is tortured for life with the fear of losing everyone around her after losing her mother so suddenly. My children are going to grow up motherless and, worst of all, they will eventually know that their mother's death could have been prevented."

The apology from Letter- kenny General Hospital was read to the court as part of the settlement of the case over the wrongful death of the 34-year old Donegal woman who died of breast cancer eight days after her third child was born.

Sean Murphy, general manager of Letterkenny General, said in a letter that he wished to "apologise unreservedly" that Ms Hamilton's cancer was not diagnosed and treated at an earlier stage. She died only a fortnight after the diagnosis was eventually made.

Mr Hamilton had to break the news of their mother's death after the funeral to his two young daughters - Jessica, who was six at the time, and Darcey, who was two.

The widower, from Sallywood, Killgordon, Co Donegal, along with his three children, sued GP Eileen Coyne with an address at Health Centre, Stranorlar, Donegal, and the HSE.

It was claimed the GP had a duty of care to exercise all reasonable skill and care in the provision of medical services.

The HSE, it was claimed, was responsible for the control, management and operation of the Breast Centre North West triple assessment clinic in Letterkenny General Hospital.

It was claimed there was a failure to diagnose Mrs Hamilton's cancer at an earlier treatable stage and negligent delay in achieving a cancer diagnosis.

Mrs Hamilton began to attend Dr Coyne in November/ December 2009 with symptoms relating to her right breast.


She was referred and attended the breast clinic in Letter- kenny in February 2010 for a scan and was told she had a benign cyst. This was the first missed opportunity. By June 2010, she had a discharge from her breast.

She was referred again and diagnosed with mastitis and prescribed antibiotics and referred back to her GP. This was the second missed opportunity.

In August 2011, she went to a GP who referred her to the breast clinic. She was diagnosed with Grade 3 cancer and had an 8cm tumour in her breast. A decision was made to deliver her baby by C-section at 28 weeks.