ACT News

Calvary settles with woman after error allegedly left her with incurable cancer

The Calvary Hospital has agreed to pay $850,000 to a Canberra mother for a glaring oversight that allegedly allowed a curable cancer to spread to an incurable state.

The patient, Rachael Anne Netting, was told she had just months to live when Calvary realised their mistake earlier this year.

Calvary Hospital has settled with a cancer patient over a glaring oversight during her care.
Calvary Hospital has settled with a cancer patient over a glaring oversight during her care. Photo: Melissa Adams

She launched a major negligence case in the ACT Supreme Court, which was treated urgently due to her bleak prognosis.

The parties went into mediation to try and resolve the case without the need for hearing.

It appeared back in the ACT Supreme Court on Thursday morning, and the parties informed the court they had settled.

Calvary has agreed to pay $850,000 plus $135,000 in court costs, court documents reveal.


Mrs Netting, a mother of two young boys, first went to Calvary complaining of abdominal pain in January last year.

Two ultrasounds were conducted, one picking up an ovarian cyst, and the other a mass in her liver.

The cyst was removed, but Mrs Netting allegedly left the hospital oblivious to the issues with her liver.

The ultrasound report author had urged for a CT scan to investigate the mass further, but that was never done, and Mrs Netting said she was never told of the recommendation.

Instead, the cancer was left to spread.

Mrs Netting's lawyers at Bradley Allen Love allege the cancer was curable on her first visit to Calvary.

More than a year later, Mrs Netting returned to the hospital, again complaining of sudden and severe pain.

An ultrasound, CT scan, and blood tests were conducted, and the mass was found to have grown significantly.

She was taken to Canberra hospital, but was told the cancer was now incurable.

Mrs Netting was given between three to six months to live in September.

The formal diagnosis was one of metastatic liver cancer.

Mrs Netting is undergoing chemotherapy, but her health was described as "precarious" in court on Thursday. 

In its defence, filed before the settlement was reached, Calvary admitted it breached its duty of care. 

But, at that stage, it signalled it may contest the causal link between their error and the development of the fatal liver cancer.

The hospital also allegedly failed to send the ultrasound report to her general practitioner.

Calvary, represented by the ACT Government Solicitor, disputed that in its  initial defence, and also contested claims that its staff failed to view the formal ultrasound report. 

It also did not admit that she would have been cured if treated on her first visit to the hospital.

Mrs Netting's barrister, David Hirsch, told the court last month that his client would likely have been cured if treated on the initial visit.

He said the ultrasound report had been clear and unambiguous: "Thou shalt investigate," he said. "It wasn't done, and that has been accepted."

The settlement has resolved the principal matters in the case.

It also saves witnesses, including Mrs Netting, from giving evidence at hearing or on commission.

The case will return before the courts in February for a further directions hearing. 

It is understood individual employees of the hospital have also been added as defendants in the case. 

Mrs Netting's ill health forced her to leave the Australian Tax Office, where she had worked for some time, earlier this year.

Her lawyers were claiming injury, loss, and damage from the cancer itself, multiple admissions to hospital, 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.