ACT News

Calvary Hospital disputes blunder caused mother's fatal cancer

More than a year later, Mrs Netting returned to Calvary, complaining again of pain.

Calvary Hospital has refused to admit its failure to fully investigate a Canberra mother's liver tumour directly caused an incurable cancer now likely to kill her within months.

But the hospital, currently facing a major negligence case in the ACT Supreme Court, has conceded it breached the duty of care it owed to patient Rachael Anne Netting, 37.

Mrs Netting first went to Calvary in January last year, complaining of abdominal pain. Two ultrasounds were conducted, one picking up an ovarian cyst, which was removed, and the other a mass in her liver.

The ultrasound report urged for further investigation of the liver mass through a CT scan.

That scan was never done, and the cancer went untreated. Medical evidence suggests it was curable at that early stage.

More than a year later, Mrs Netting returned to Calvary, complaining again of pain.

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This time, the CT scan was done.

It showed an aggressive cancer deemed incurable.

The mother, who has two young sons, was given just three to six months to live.

Her firm Bradley Allen Love last week launched a bid to have her negligence case heard urgently in the ACT Supreme Court.

Calvary has since filed a defence to the case, while still gathering its own medical evidence.

The hospital, represented by the ACT Government Solicitor's office, conceded the error, court documents show.

But it is currently not admitting that the breach in their duty of care to Mrs Netting caused the incurable liver cancer.

It is also disputing various aspects of the allegations, including that the ultrasound report was never sent to Mrs Netting's GP as part of the discharge referral.

The hospital also contests claims that its staff failed to view the formal ultrasound report showing the liver mass during Mrs Netting's admission.

Mrs Netting alleged no member of Calvary staff told her of the liver mass or the recommendation for the CT scan. But that is another claim disputed by the hospital in its defence.

It does not agree that Mrs Netting would have been cured if her tumour was resected on her first visit.

The case is due for mediation in early December.

Should that process fail, it will come before the ACT Supreme Court on December 10 for hearing.

Justice Richard Refshauge last week urged the parties to do whatever they can to resolve the issue at mediation.

Mrs Netting is currently undergoing chemotherapy.

The court is considering whether it needs to take evidence on commission, or outside of the court, and may bring in former Chief Justice Terence Higgins for the job.

Calvary has previously signalled it may argue the quantum of any payout to Mrs Netting.

Her lawyers are currently claiming injury, loss, and damage from the incurable cancer itself, multiple hospitalisations, past and future liver cancer treatment, the inability to work or care for her family, the need for domestic care and palliative medical care at home, pain and suffering, emotional distress, and the loss of expectation of life.

Mrs Netting was forced out of her job at the Australian Taxation Office earlier this year, retiring on grounds of invalidity.

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