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Dutch king pays tribute to cervical cancer campaigner Adrienne Cullen

King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands has paid tribute to the late Adrienne Cullen (58), the Irish woman who died of cancer last New Year’s Eve as a result of medical negligence at a major Dutch university hospital.

Speaking to Irish journalists in The Hague, the King– who will be accompanied on his Irish visit next month by Queen Maxima – spoke of Adrienne’s “altruism” and “dignity” in campaigning for “transparency” in the Dutch medical system.

He had watched several television reports about what happened to Adrienne, he said, and he “admired her courage” for “shining a light” on “issues” in the Dutch health system.

In doing so, she had “championed greater openness”.

During their visit, the king and queen will meet President Michael D Higgins who has accepted a copy of Adrienne’s book – Deny, Dismiss, Dehumanize: What Happened What I Went to Hospital – about her shocking experiences in UMC Utrecht and other Dutch hospitals.

King Willem-Alexander said he was aware that the book had been presented to President Higgins on behalf of Adrienne Cullen’s widower, the journalist, Peter Cluskey, who lives in the Netherlands.

In protocol terms, it is highly unusual for visiting royals to make specific mention of any issue – particularly a controversial one – relating to the country they are visiting.

In a letter to Mr Cluskey last month, Dutch Health Minister, Hugo de Jonge, described UMC Utrecht’s behaviour towards Ms Cullen in the most scathing terms.

It had only been Adrienne’s “perseverance”, the Minister said, that “made Utrecht Medical Centre aware of their callous attitude”.

In January, Dutch Prime Minister, Mark Rutte, expressed his condolences following Adrienne’s death, which he described as “indescribably tragic”.

Mr Rutte said he could “scarcely imagine” what she had gone through in recent years.

He added: “I have great respect for Adrienne’s tireless efforts to achieve official acknowledgment for increased transparency in cases of medical error … I can fully understand her desire to draw attention to this situation”.