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Message - December 18, 2001
Patient "Stunned at Attitude to Hep C Diagnosis


(Irish Independent Online) A VICTIM of Hepatitis C has told the Lindsay Tribunal that when she told her doctor of her positive diagnosis he said "it's not good" and left her in a hospital corridor.

Giving evidence using the pseudonym Niamh, she told the inquiry she was "stunned" when Professor Ernest Egan made the comment at Galway Regional Hospital. She had had herself tested without his knowledge.

"I was stunned, I couldn't believe that's all he said," she said. "I was very surprised. How come they didn't put me through this test? I had to go myself to find out."

She added that Professor Egan did not refer her to a specialist following her diagnosis. This was denied by counsel for her doctor, Charles Meenan SC.

He said that his client had referred Niamh to a specialist who dealt with Hepatitis and related illnesses. Niamh said that her GP had made the referral.

Niamh was diagnosed with haemophilia, rare in a woman, when she was six years old. She said that had she not taken the Hepatitis C test herself, she would have remained ignorant of her condition and could have infected others.

Since the diagnosis, a relationship has ended and she said she had to cope with the condition by herself. She also had to give up work because of the physical effects of Hepatitis C, which cannot be cured, just treated.

"I was having a relationship with a man and when his father heard he blew a fuse and it was all off," she told the tribunal.

"People say no-one will be bothered with me. I have no-one I can talk to, I don't know what my lifespan is. I wish I could have a normal life. I haven't the quality of life like I had. I had a job and had to pack it up because it's too much. I have no support whatsoever," she said.

"In my mind it's alive, it's active and it can get worse at any time. Nobody knows what you have to go through and keep it to yourself."

Meanwhile, the tribunal heard that a young man only became aware of his Hepatitis C status last August, although his medical records said he tested positive in 1994.

Using the pseudonym Frank, the witness said that he was told at a meeting in 1994 by Dr Ann Tobin at St James's Hospital in Dublin that he was negative, although his brother had tested positive.

He added that he was "afraid" of attending the hospital for treatment now, because on three previous occasions he had to advise medical staff how to administer his treatment.

"It's almost like a stigma so you're afraid of having it (Hepatitis C)," he said. Final submissions are expected to the tribunal early next month.

Paul Melia


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