THE son of a late County Limerick army officer has urged men to insist on getting basic prostate cancer tests carried out after the HSE settled a legal action over the alleged wrongful death of his father.
An eminent British urologist asserted negligence on the part of the urology department at University Hospital Limerick and by the GP of the late Tim Moynihan from Hospital. But the High Court action was settled in November without admission of liability by the HSE.
The Executive, which also paid the legal costs of Mr Moynihan’s son Gerard, has declined to comment on the settlement or the background to the case.
Gerard Moynihan said he hoped that by speaking out, “other Limerick men might be saved by insisting on basic tests”.
Tim Moynihan, an NCO in the Army died aged 61 on February 12, 2009 from prostate cancer which had metastasized to his bones, lungs and bowel. He had a tumour successfully removed from his bladder at University Hospital Limerick in January 1998 and was seen regularly at the urology department from that date.
Ronald Miller, a consultant urologist in London who was retained by Gerard Moynihan’s solicitors Callan Tansey, notes that while regular cystoscopies were carried out in the hospital, there were no records to indicate other tests such as bimanual examinations, rectal examinations or PSA (prostate specific antigens) blood tests were regularly carried out.
“It is essential to carry out a bimanual examinations when dealing with patients with bladder cancer as they may develop invasive tumours which are not obvious at cystoscopy,” Mr Miller wrote in a medicolegal report seen by the Limerick Leader of the hospital’s apparent failure to carry out such tests between 1998 and 2003.
Gerard Moynihan said that an accurate diagnosis of prostate cancer had only been made in October 2008 - and that this diagnosis had not been made by a urologist but by a doctor in the emergency department of University Hospital Limerick.
“The cancer had spread to the bones, lungs and bowel at that stage and there was little that could be done. He was visibly a very sick man and he died on February 12, only a few months later,” said Gerard.
According to Mr Miller’s report: “on the balance of probabilities, there is no doubt that had Mr Moynihan’s prostate cancer been diagnosed at an earlier stage, curative treatment could have been instituted, thus preventing the disseminated nature of disease and fatal outcome”.
“While it is not uncommon to find difficulties in the diagnosis of prostate cancer by general practitioners, the negligence of the urology department is astounding.”
Warning signs such as a high PSA level as early as November 1998 warranted further investigations for prostate cancer, according to Mr Miller.
“It is likely that the prostate cancer would have been diagnosed some 10 years earlier had this happened.”
Mr Miller goes on to conclude that “this level of negligence on the part of the GP and the hospital is indefensible. It is very unusual for a patient to be undergoing such close monitoring and to have the opportunity to have this condition diagnosed many years before he presented with disease. This opportunity was sadly missed.”
Following his father’s death, Gerard Moynihan said he could get no answers from the urology department, from hospital management or from HSE headquarters. He eventually resorted to getting his late father’s medical records under the Freedom of Information Act before initiating legal action.
“We are happy with the settlement but no money will ever bring him back. We would have hoped for an apology but it didn’t come to that,” said Gerard.
“Most people would have known my father as a military man, somebody who served the state - and I suppose the state let him down as regards Limerick urology department.”
“Why not do the tests, especially for a man in his 50s and when he had previous urological problems? The reason I’m speaking about it is somebody else may be saved.”
“Men should insist on these checks as regards PSA testing and the manual tests for prostate cancer. Over 2500 people are diagnosed in Ireland every year. These tests should be done and especially in men over 50. Maybe if somebody else insists on the testing, it will change their life. My father didn’t have the chance because he didn’t have the proper tests done,” said Gerard.
The HSE said this week that it did not comment on individual cases.