It was with great sadness that I read of the death of Adrienne Cullen who died on New Year’s Eve. It is poignant indeed that she died on the last day of the year that brought “open disclosure” into the public domain on foot of the Cervical Check debacle.
If you haven’t already read her great article on the subject in the Irish Times on December 11 last year, you can read it here.
Adrienne, like Vicky Phelan, was a passionate advocate for victims of medical negligence and led a sustained and powerful campaign for open disclosure after medical error.
I first read her story in the Irish Times in an article by Ben Coates.
I can recall marvelling at her bravery and fortitude in telling her story to a lecture theatre packed with 300 people at the very hospital where her diagnosis of cervical cancer had been “mislaid” for 2 years.
As Ben Coates puts it, the presence of Adrienne in public together with the doctors who were responsible for the error was “revolutionary”.
This was the first time anywhere in the world- certainly to my knowledge- that a patient seriously harmed by a medical error appeared in public together with the doctors to jointly talk about what went wrong and the terrible effect it had on all three of them.
Four days after this powerful story was published, Vicky Phelan’s story broke and exposed the public to something medical negligence lawyers have been endeavouring to highlight for years - the scandal that, in Ireland, there is no statutory obligation on treating health practitioners to tell the patients the truth when mistakes are made. That remains the case to date.
It is a terrible shame that Adrienne didn’t live to see the publication of her book Deny, Dismiss, Dehumanise: What Happened When I went to Hospital, due out in the coming weeks.
I urge everyone to get a copy. I have no doubt it will be a powerful and inspirational read.
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