A 57-year-old cancer patient died hours after a routine procedure that was meant to prolong her life, a coroner's court heard today.
Doreen Helen Victoria Scullion, of Dermott Avenue, Comber, Co Down, was being treated at Belfast City Hospital for a rare form of cancer.
She died on September 20, 2003, 24 hours after an operation to insert a Hickman Line designed to instil chemotherapy drugs into her right jugular vein.
An inquest at Laganside Court heard the procedure was usually straightforward and that there had not been a fatality as a result of this operation in 20 years.
Mrs Scullion, a sales assistant who had been married for just two years, was suffering from leukaemia and, according to doctors at the hospital, needed urgent chemotherapy treatment. This required a Hickman Line to be inserted into her right jugular vein.
An earlier procedure to insert a Pick Line to insert chemotherapy drugs through her arm had failed, leaving doctors no choice but to go with the Hickman procedure, the court heard.
State Pathologist Professor Jack Crane, who carried out a post-mortem on Mrs Scullion's body a day after her death, said the cause was a right haemotorax caused by perforation of the right internal jugular vein.
He said the 5mm perforation was the result of an attempted insertion of a Hickman Line.
Professor Crane also noted that Mrs Scullion's cancer, which had spread to her bowel, liver, kidney and spleen, was a "major factor" in contributing to her death. He suggested the disease would have affected the ability of Mrs Scullion's blood to clot.
Also giving evidence was Mrs Scullion's husband, Francis, who had been produced from custody and was handcuffed.
He told the court his wife had been aware she was suffering from a serious illness but was unsure of the exact diagnosis.
"It was something to do with the blood but we didn't know what it was." He said his wife, who also suffered from celiac disease, had experienced her main difficulties in the months before her death.