Whistleblower

This Sunday night, RTE will broadcast ‘Whistleblower‘ the first of a 2-part drama series based on the true events outlined in the enquiry into irregular obstetric practices at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda. The Lourdes Hospital Inquiry Report by Judge Maureen Harding Clark was published two and a half years ago and highlighted the plight of 129 women whose lives were blighted forever by unnecessary caesarian-hysterectomies carried out by obstetrician, Dr. Michael Neary. The investigation described the number of peripartum hysterectomies performed at Drogheda as “truly shocking”. It’s probably the worst case of systems failure in Irish medical history. It took the tremendous bravery of a midwife to blow the whistle in 1998, to put a stop to the wrong doing.

Dr Michael Neary has never explained the failure in his duty of care to his patients nor has he ever apologised. What he did was tantamount to abuse over a period of 30 years, he ruined people’s lives. How did this happen? How could 129 women lose their wombs unnecessarily? The vast majority of these women were young, 25 of them were first-time mothers. The report praised the management of the hospital and the health board for dealing promptly and appropriately in setting up the investigation to take-on the consultant. However, opinions still vary on the reasons why Dr. Neary did what he did and nobody, except Dr. Neary, knows the real answer.

Click here to see a promotional video of the programme.

Anyone affected by the events depicted in this programme or by similar events can contact Patient Focus for support.
Website: www.patientfocus.ie
Phone: 018851611/ 17 /33/ 58.
Email: support@patientfocus.ie

18 Responses to Whistleblower

  1. Baino says:

    God thats awful. I’d really like to know why he did it . .money? Botched surgery? Misogeny?

  2. Steph says:

    Baino – there was a common trait to it in that Neary told all the women afterwards it had been a “life-saving operation”, “copious blood loss”, “never seen a worse case” etc. When the enquiry investigated the individual medical notes, blood loss was within acceptable limits for a caesarian delivery.

    Michael Neary’s caesarian-hysterectomy rate was 1 in 37 caesarian sections.

    In other hospitals, the rate is approx 1 in 300!

  3. I echo Baino – that is truly awful. And yes, one has to wonder what on earth motivated him. You have to be inclined to think it was either misogyny or money – certainly not care for his patients or good medical ethics.

  4. Steph says:

    Hi! AV

    I omitted to mention that Neary was struck off the medical register in 2003 for professional misconduct, following his appearance before the Medical Council’s Fitness to Practice committee.

    http://www.rte.ie/tv/scannal/Neary.html

    The ensuing Lourdes enquiry makes for shocking reading.

    http://www.dohc.ie/publications/lourdes.html

    I think the silence from Irish bloggers on this topic could be indicative of a reluctance to re-visit this whole sorry saga. It made news headlines for many years.

  5. Suzy says:

    Looking forward (oh that sounds far too positive but you know what I mean) to this programme tonight.

    I agree there has been huge silence on this and not just from bloggers. I did blog about the way in which Vincent Browne covered the inquiry with reenactments etc on his radio show..

    The one quote which chilled me to my bone was when Neary said that he ‘took away the cradle and left the playpen.’ And I’ll get no friends for saying it but If it were men butchered would things have been so quiet?

  6. Steph says:

    Cheers Suzy

    The silence in ominous. There are a lot of unanswered questions surrounding this whole saga and I don’t suppose the truth will ever come out. The defence of Neary by three of his own colleagues, all consultant gynaecologists/obstetricians, is another fishy aspect to this tale which has never been fully explained.

    We’ll never know what Neary’s motivation was but the fact that he lost his own wife to ovarian cancer, leaves me convinced that the man was on a mission 😦

  7. Stephanie says:

    I haven’t seen the drama yet but the one thing that will always astound me about this case it the fact that Dr. Neary was never jailed for what he did to those women. I have lived in Drogheda all my life and the goings on in the Lourdes was from what I can gather, common knowledge in this town. How the other consultants and medical workers who worked alongside him could live with themselves knowing that the butchery he conducted was totally unneccesary is beyond me. I don’t know what his motive was….a god complex? A misogynist? A straight-up mad man? I don’t think anyone will ever know. What I do know that he should have been struck off years before he was and his 70k pension taken off him.

  8. Steph says:

    Stephanie – hello and welcome

    I saw the first part of this drama last night and I have to admit, I was deeply affected by it. The drama really brought home the enormity of what happened and I find it unbelievable to think that this butchery was still going on as recently as 1998.

    For me, one of the more unsettling aspects is that it throws a patient’s trust in the medical profession into disarray. All doctors are taught “Primum non nocere” – “First, do no harm” as a fundamental principle of practice but Neary it appears, had his own set of rules. As you say, the silence from his professional colleagues was very unnerving. It remains to be seen what tonight’s episode will reveal.

  9. Laura says:

    Well having watched it I thought the following. What went on in Drogheda was pretty much in tune with an Ireland which allowed people with power to abuse in the most vile manner. This Neary guy ( I refuse to call him a Doctor) got some kind of kick out of telling women he saved their lives, what I don’t know. His colleagues were as guilty as him particularly those on the same level as himself i.e. other consultants. It would be very difficult for a nurse of someone else to take him on because of the climate at the time and by reports the climate in Drogheda. The College of Surgeons I hope has taken a look at this program and asked it’s Surgery & Postgraduate Faculties to take a look at continuos training for all Doctors. And if they do not meet the standards or complete the listed courses they will incur penalties. The role of the medical council needs to be called into play here also – and not just in this case. They have failed in recent times to deal with problems within the medical community and I wonder is it time for someone to question their role in regulating Doctors and Consultants. The other lesson to be learned from this is for patients and it is ask questions. Doctors are not God, they are not always right and if you have something which is bothering you ask and if your not happy say so. You do not have to take what your given. Do your own research in as much as you can and if you can seek the advice of support groups if you need someone else to ask about your Doctor. Obviously some of these women could not do this when they are on a gurney. The Whistleblower whoever you are – well you know what you did was so right and I hope your life is good.

  10. Steph says:

    Wise words indeed, Laura

    I particularly concur with your advice to patients to stand up and be counted although I acknowledge it’s hard to do this when you’re vulnerable as a patient.

    I had to queue up in a out-patient clinic last week and when the nurse called out my name, she turned on her heels to walk down a long corridor and disappeared around the corner without once making eye contact with me. I was expected to follow her like an obedient dog. I was appalled by her behaviour but do you think I said anything when I reached the examination room? Nope – I let it go as I went straight into a rushed consultation with the specialist. I could have kicked myself afterwards for letting the nurse get away with that sort of intimidating behaviour. The mistake I made was in following her. I should have sat back down until she greeted me properly. While waiting in the queue, I had watched countless other nurses greet their patients with a smile and a word of encouragement. My nurse definitely had an attitude problem and sadly, I didn’t point this out to her.

    This is only a very small example of how power can go to people’s heads but it does give some insight into how Neary got away with his arrogance.

  11. Patrick says:

    I watched the “Whistleblower” programme and was deeply affected by its contents. I was not surprised to learn of the attitudes and behaviours of some of the people portrayed. Part of this was led by the culture within and outside the Hospital setting – not an excuse!!

    I must praise the actions and the courage of the “whisltblower”. You did the right thing. I just hope that you can lead a normal private life without fear and anxiety. You have served your profession well.

    I wish all those women affected by these traumatic and tragic events a better life.

    I know there are more questions to be answered by many quarters. I hope that those with this knowledge will come forward and reveal all. Your silence is deafening and damaging.

    May I congratulate RTE for an amazing programme. Well done to all. And finally, to the person who questioned these practices… your courage is amazing.

  12. girls at home really miffed at missing this…….has anyone got a copy????

  13. Steph says:

    Well-said! Patrick

    It was an excellent production and as you say, deeply moving stuff. Here’s a link to some background information on the production team.

    http://www.rte.ie/tv/whistleblower/biog.html

    Roy – sorry, didn’t record it but I’m sure that RTE will screen a repeat as everybody’s been talking about the programme this week.

    You should visit my blog more often to hear about these things in time. Tut! Tut! πŸ˜‰

  14. Steph says:

    Here’s a link to the stance taken by the Irish Hospital Consultant’s Association (IHCA) on the Neary Case…

    http://www.irishhealth.com/index.html?src=ez&link=MTA1OTI1&level=4&id=14181

  15. Steph says:

    Errr – thanks, Roy. I’m lucky to have you visit at all! πŸ˜›

    There’s been a bit of a lull in blogging here this week but all will be explained in due course.

    I’m away for the weekend if anyone’s looking for me. Back soon! πŸ˜€

  16. sheerdebacle says:

    This sounds like a classic case of Munchausen’s by Proxy. Ireland’s own Shipman – except, chilling thought, there are probably more Shipmans still out there as yet undiscovered. The medical seniors have had far too much power for far too long. This culture of old boys’ club deceit kills.

    Deb

    http://www.sheer-debacle.blogspot.com

  17. Steph says:

    Hi! Deb and welcome!

    Chilling stuff is right. I’m not usually fazed by medical documentaries or dramas but the ‘Whistleblower’ left me feeling distinctly uneasy. There are so many unanswered questions in this case and for me personally, I found the betrayal of trust between doctor and patient, particularly unnerving.

    btw I’ve been over to your blog and have copied your logo etc. re Dr Scot Jnr. to display here. Thanks!

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