Widower settles action against HSE over death of wife from breast cancer

Widower Settles Action Against Hse Over Death Of Wife From Breast Cancer
Catherine Halligan (44) died of breast cancer in November 2018. Photo: PA stock image
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High Court reporters

The family of a 44-year-old woman who died of breast cancer has settled a High Court action against the HSE over her death.

Catherine Halligan, an executive officer with the Courts Service in Waterford, was a much-loved wife, mother, daughter and sister, the High Court heard.


The family’s counsel, Oonah McCrann SC, instructed by Ernest Cantillons solicitors, told the court the tragedy for Catherine’s family was that her “death was avoidable.”

Catherine’s widower, Brendan Halligan, had sued the HSE over the death of his wife in November 2018, over four years after she was first investigated for a lump on her breast.

It was claimed the HSE allegedly failed to provide appropriate care for Ms Halligan, and that there had been an alleged failure to carry out an appropriate triple assessment of a mass on her right breast, including a biopsy when she was assessed at the Breast Clinic at University Hospital Waterford on June 4th, 2014.

There was, it was further claimed, a delay in the treatment of Ms Halligan’s breast cancer, and there was an alleged failure to refer Ms Halligan for a breast MRI scan after an irregular lump was recorded on June 4th, 2014, and noted by a consultant surgeon as suspicious for cancer and probably malignant.


There had been, it was alleged, an inappropriate concentration on an abnormality detected on Ms Halligan’s left breast in the June assessment.


It was further contended that in the June 2014 assessment, there was an alleged failure to comply with appropriate hospital, national, and international guidelines for the assessment of breast symptoms.

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.

However, causation remained at issue and that Ms Halligan’s death was caused by the admitted delay.


Counsel told the court the action had been settled after mediation, and the case was before the court for the division of the statutory mental distress solatium payment of €35,000 only.

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

In the proceedings brought by Mr Halligan, of St John’s Park, Waterford, it was claimed Ms Halligan had found a lump in her right breast May 2014, but she 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 she 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 November 19th, 2018.

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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