Hospital apologises to family of businessman Barry Comer over his wife's death

The apology was tendered on behalf of St James’s Hospital to Barry Comer as part of the settlement of proceedings brought following the death of his wife Lyndsey Comer, a 36-year-old mother of two young children, from cancer five years ago
Hospital apologises to family of businessman Barry Comer over his wife's death

High court reporters

A Dublin hospital has apologised before the High Court to the family of a well-known businessman over an error in interpreting ultrasound scans on his late wife.

The apology was tendered on behalf of St James’s Hospital to Barry Comer as part of the settlement of proceedings brought following the death of his wife Lyndsey Comer, a 36-year-old mother of two young children, from cancer five years ago.

As part of the settlement the court heard the hospital is to also take steps to ensure that what happened to Lyndsey does not happen again.

Diagnosis

Her husband claimed the hospital failed to properly diagnose the results of two ultrasound scans of a lump on his wife's lower left side, that took place at St James’s Hospital Private Clinic in October 2015 and January 2016.

She was told the lump was likely caused by bleeding into a muscle and was advised by staff at the clinic to get bed rest, when in fact she had terminal cancer.

On Thursday as part of the settlement against the hospital an apology was read to the court on behalf of St James’s CEO Mr Lorcan Birthistle by the hospital counsel Derry O'Donovan SC.

In his apology the CEO stated that on behalf of the management and staff of St James's he wished to extend his "deepest regret" to Mr Comer and his family over Lyndsey's death.

The CEO added that the distress Lyndsey's death had caused them had not been underestimated by him.

The CEO also apologised for "the error in interpreting" Lyndsey's ultrasound scans.

"I want to assure you that steps are being taken to reduce the risk of a similar mistake occurring in the future" the CEO said.

Payment

Oisin Quinn SC Turner for Mr Comer said that also included in the settlement is a payment of €25,000 to the Comer family and the defendant would also pay his client's legal costs.

The settlement, which came on the third day of the hearing, was welcomed by Ms Justice Leonie Reynolds.

The judge said that the case was "sad," "difficult" and as far as Mr Comer was concerned was "not about the money."

Outside of court Mr Comer, the Managing Director of the Comer Group Ireland, and a son of one of the group's founders Luke Comer said he was delighted the case had been resolved.

He said that the sole purpose of the action was to "make sure that this never happened to anyone else."

He said he has "nothing but the height of respect for doctors, nurses, and consultants, especially for what they did during the Covid-19 pandemic".

Mr Comer, who is an accomplished Gaelic Footballer, said that it had been Lyndsey's wish before she died that he "follow this up".

Promise

Following the hospital's promise to carry out a review to help prevent what had happened from happening again he said that his promise to fulfil her request has now been carried out.

He said that people "know their own bodies" and when they something is amiss, they should not listen to nor accept anyone else's opinion.

"Always get a scan if you think you need one," he added.

In his action he alleged that Lyndsey should have been diagnosed as having cancer following the scans performed on her at the clinic in October 2015 and January 2016.

Ultrasounds

Following the ultrasounds of her abdomen, conducted by different radiologists, she was diagnosed as having a large bilateral rectus sheath haematoma, which he was alleged told may have been caused by low level bleeding into a muscle.

However, her pain persisted, and she was referred to the Hermitage Clinic in February 2016.

After undergoing various procedures including a CT scan, Lyndsey was diagnosed in early March 2016 as having cancer, which had spread from her colon.

Mr Comer, from Dunboyne, Co Meath claimed had his wife been properly diagnosed in October 2015 her life would have been lengthened by between six to 12 months.

He also claimed that her quality of life during that period would have been better, as the tumour would have been much smaller and easier to manage, had she been diagnosed a few months earlier than she was.

The action was against St James’s Hospital and its staff for damages for the alleged wrongful death due to negligence, of his wife.

In its defence the defendant accepted that the scans were misinterpreted, and she should have been referred for CT scans.

However, It denied the claims and had argued that her death was not caused by the delay in her diagnosis, or that an earlier identification of her cancer would have made a difference to her treatment or survival.

It also claimed that her cancer had a genetic mutation which made it more resistant to standard chemotherapy, and she would have sadly died when she died.

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