Our Roger Murray SC represented the family of Shane Banks, in Ireland’s longest running inquest last year, and again in the High Court this week. Mr. Banks died in June 2019, following surgery for treatable lung cancer at University Hospital Galway. A 43 year old lecturer in business at Sligo Insitiute of Technology, Mr. Banks is survived by his wife Ciara, and three young children. Edward Walsh SC, instructed by Callan Tansey Solicitors LLP, told the High Court that this was a “particularly distressing case”, and Mr. Banks death was due to a “catalogue of medical errors”.


Surgeon Under Review


Professor Mark Da Costa, the surgeon who operated on Mr. Banks, had concerns raised about his surgical skills in October 2017. While a mentor had been appointed for him no proper structure was put in place. A review in 2018 led to a more formal mentorship programme being put in place, initally for six months, then extended for a further two months. It was during this time that Mr. Banks came under his care.


Major Complications Arose


The court was told that Professor DaCosta had been warned not to undertake any complicated surgery and was being supervised for his cardiac work. Mr. Banks surgery was carried out on a Friday, with only junior doctors assisting. The surgery took twice as long as expected as major complications arose leading to an anaesthetist to independently call for assistance. The next day Professor Da Costa went on annual leave, no proper cover was provided and three days later Mr. Banks died. His family was not informed about his deteriorating condition.


Apology From Hospital


In a letter of apology read in the High Court Chris Kane, General Manager at University Hospital Galway, acknowledged the enormity of the personal loss to the family. He said ” I sincerely and unreservedly apologise for the failure to consider the introduction of proper support for the thoracic surgery in Shane’s case and the deficits in the manner in which his surgery was carried out. If these had been in place and addressed, Shanes’s sad death three days later would likely have been avoided. I acknowledge and regret the great upset, distress and loss suffered as a result”.


Family Statement


A statement from the family said, “Significant questions still arise as to how management allowed the second surgery to proceed. Evidence was given at the inquest that doctors involved in Shane’s first surgery approached senior management and doctors expressing their concerns about Professor Mark Da Costa, but they were never acted upon”

Call for Patient Safety and Candour


Roger Murray SC said the HSE must now make meaningful the apology in full and the coroner’s recommendations should be implemented. He said patient safety and candour must be put first. He also referred to the fact that it had take a 15 day inquest for the full facts of the case to finally emerge.

Mr. Banks widow, Ciara McDermott said, “Shane was the love of my life”, he was the “best definition of a father, our children were only two, three and four years old when he died”. She also added, “The coroner’s recommendations should be implemented in full. If a pilot was deemed unsafe to fly, he would not be put in charge of a risky flight. Why should different standards apply to doctors? The culture of silence around medical incidents left us in the dark until the inquest started. This has to stop.” The family have called for a new law to be introduced making it mandatory for hospitals to disclose if a treating doctor is under supervision or beeing mentored.

The family have settled the case for an undisclosed sum

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