Friday 29 May 2020

Irish woman who fought Dutch hospital secrecy dies of cancer

Adrienne Cullen, the Irish woman who campaigned for transparency in hospital care after she was left with terminal cervical cancer thanks to a Dutch medical error has died at the age of 58.

Her husband Peter Cluskey issued a statement on Twitter saying that his wife had been ‘appallingly treated’ and that this had made her a ‘formidable warrior’.

Adrienne first underwent tests in the Netherlands in 2011 but it was not until two years later that a review of old pathology results showed that she had cancer. By 2015 her cancer had spread and, because of the delays, was classed terminal.

She was offered €500,000 compensation by Utrecht’s UMCU teaching hospital on condition she sign a gagging order, which she refused to do, and began campaigning for more transparency about medical errors.

The hospital eventually settled with Adrienne and her husband for €545,000, the highest medical negligence award ever made in the Netherlands.

Lecture

In April this year, she was able to give a lecture at the hospital calling for the victims of medical errors to be heard, alongside the doctor responsible for her misdiagnosis. An Adrienne Cullen lecture is now part of the university calendar.

Early in December she was given an honorary doctorate by the University of Cork.

Her book about her experiences ‘Deny, Dismiss, Dehumanize : What Happened When I went to Hospital’ will be published shortly. Adrienne’s impact was such in the Netherlands that public broadcaster NOS and the NRC newspaper are among the media outlets to carry an obituary.

Watch an interview with Adrienne earlier this year

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