Cancer patient in Netherlands speaks out about fatal misdiagnosis

Two years after being given a clean bill of health, Adrienne Cullen received a call from the University Medical Centre Utrecht that belatedly diagnosed her with a terminal case of cervical cancer.

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Cancer patient in Netherlands speaks out about fatal misdiagnosis - NewsMavens
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Why this story matters:

-- by Melanie Taylor

Usually following a case of medical malpractice, there animosity is fostered between the patient harmed and their doctors. In this instance, that is certainly not the case.

Cullen wholeheartedly forgives her doctors, blaming instead the infrastructure of UMCU itself. She decided that the best use of her final years would be to advocate for greater transparency in hospital practices so as to prevent against anything like her case happening again. UMCU has granted her the opportunity to lecture at the hospital, telling her story and hopefully catalyzing change in hospital goings-on.

“I’d like to think this is the beginning of a new chapter in openness and transparency at UMCU, but there’s still a very long way to go,” Cullen said in her lecture.

Seven years later, Cullen is still left with unanswered questions about the nature of the hospital's mistakes that led to her misdiagnosis. She continues to implore UMCU to launch an official investigation to settle once and for all the question of why she has terminal cancer.

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Details from the story:

  • Cullen was cleared in 2011, but diagnosed in 2013 when researchers came across her cancerous tissue upon review of old pathological tests done at the hospital.
  • By 2015, Cullen's cancer was ruled terminal.
  • UMCU has been accused of irresponsible treatment of patients in the past, specifically in 2015 regarding their Ear, Nose, and Throat department, when a television exposé revealed that the department had a “culture of fear”, which was putting patient safety in jeopardy and leading to serious medical errors.
  • Cullen was granted a settlement of €545,000 by UMCU as compensation for emotional damages as well as lost earnings.
  • UMCU is launching a lecture series in hopes of fundamentally shifting the culture in the hospital to one of greater transparency.
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