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Family settles High Court action over woman’s death

The family of a 44-year-old woman who died from breast cancer has settled a High Court action against the HSE over what was described in court as her “avoidable” death.

Lawyers for the family of Catherine Halligan from St John Park in Waterford told the court she died in 2018, four years after she was first investigated for a lump on her breast.

In a High Court action it was claimed there was a failure to carry out an appropriate triple assessment of a mass on her right breast when she was assessed at a breast clinic in June 2014.

The court heard that in June 2014 it was noted by a consultant that a lump was suspicious for cancer and probably malignant but it was alleged there was a failure to refer Ms Halligan for an MRI or biopsy.

Instead, there was an alleged inappropriate concentration on an abnormality detected in her left breast.

Ms Halligan was not diagnosed with cancer until October 2014. At that stage, she had a right mastectomy, lymph node removal, and chemotherapy and it was claimed was later told she was cancer free.

Four years later in June 2018, she was diagnosed with Stage 4 breast cancer with secondaries and she died on 19 November 2018. Her husband Brendan Halligan had sued the HSE over the death of his wife.

The HSE admitted liability for the delay between June and October 2014 in the diagnosis, treatment, care, and management of Ms Halligan’s breast cancer.

The settlement was made without admission of liability. The HSE had admitted a delay between June and October but had not admitted the delay caused Ms Halligan’s death.

Senior Counsel Oonagh McCrann told the court today that the action had settled after mediation and the case was before the court for the division of the statutory mental distress solatium payment of €35,000.

She said a separate nervous shock action brought by Mr Halligan had also been settled.

The former executive officer with the courts service in Waterford, Ms Halligan was described as a much-loved wife, mother, daughter and sister whose tragic death was avoidable.

Noting the settlement Mr Justice Paul Coffey said it was fair and reasonable and he conveyed his deepest sympathy to Ms Halligan’s husband, daughter, and extended family.

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