Eastern Health puts call out for monument to breast cancer scandal victims

Barb Sweet
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Jane Hopkins (left), shown in a file photo, who travelled to Newfoundland from Cambridge, Ont., to be with her mother Elizabeth Finlayson (right) for the Cameron Inquiry, says the memorial to those who were affected by the breast cancer testing scandal is long overdue. Finlayson died in July 2011 in Labrador City. — Telegram file photo

Elizabeth Finlayson had a new dress bought for her grandson’s wedding in Ontario. But as her family gathered at the September event, they could only envision Finlayson dancing in that dress in heaven, said her daughter, Jane Hopkins, of Cambridge, Ont.

“I just wish she was still here,” said Hopkins, whose mother died in July 2011 in Labrador City.

She hopes Finlayson and all the other patients affected by the Eastern Health breast cancer scandal will be memorialized by name in a planned monument.

“Every lady that went through this, through the Cameron Inquiry, should be listed on this. The women that have suffered and died long before they should have should be well recognized,” Hopkins said in a phone interview. “Every name (should be) written on a plaque, the bigger the better. I just think it should be out there — something to remind (Eastern Health) every day, remind everyone in Newfoundland and Canada.”

Eastern Health’s request for proposals for a sculpture/artwork to honour the breast cancer patients and their families involved in the hormone receptor testing errors closes March 1.

According to the request for proposals, the work is supposed to reflect a sense of hope, health and healing, “so that the patients and their families are recognized for their strength, courage and resilience as they continue on life’s journey beyond the (estrogen receptor/progesterone) testing errors experience.”

This is the second go around. The tender was first issued Nov. 21.

According to Eastern Health, the review panel agreed that proposals submitted as part of the first tender did not capture the “essence and goal” of the artwork.

The review panel includes representatives of the patient advisory council, the arts community, a number of Eastern Health representatives, including a staff member with expertise in artwork, a member of the cancer care program, a member of the laboratory team and representatives from Eastern Health’s infrastructure support and purchasing departments.

Eastern Health agreed to establish a physical memorial in the Dr. H. Bliss Murphy Cancer Centre or its gardens as part of the class-action lawsuit it settled for $17.5 million.

An inquiry by Justice Margaret Cameron examined why more than 400 patients received wrong test results from 1997 to 2005 at the General Hospital immunohistochemistry lab in St. John’s, as well as the fiasco surrounding the disclosure of the errors once they were caught in 2005.

The tests — which measure estrogen and progesterone hormones — are used to determine the course of treatment for breast cancer. Due to the mistakes, many patients failed to get beneficial hormone drug therapy treatment in a timely manner.

Finlayson, a mother of seven, battled cancer for 11 years, as it spread through her bones and lungs, and finally into her brain.

She was the last witness at the inquiry conducted by Cameron, who released her report on the scandal in 2009.

Finlayson’s recounting of her ordeal capped an inquiry that had already heard months of incredible testimony about the tragic boondoggle from patients, widowers, health care staff and administrators, politicians and others. But what Finlayson told the inquiry that day, Oct. 31, 2008, was a shocking addition to a scandal that rocked the province.

With the inquiry in full swing, Finlayson turned on her television in March 2008 and heard a story that sounded like her own. She subsequently learned how Eastern Health failed to count her again and again as a victim of the errors.

Diagnosed in 2000, Finlayson’s breast tissue samples weren’t among those sent to Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto for retesting after the errors were discovered.

In another misstep, it was revealed she wasn’t followed up for years after an initial chemotherapy and radiation treatment.

Hopkins, who testified with her mother at the Cameron Inquiry, said the monument is long overdue.

“They shouldn’t even have to think twice about it,” Hopkins said.



Organizations: General Hospital, Mount Sinai Hospital

Geographic location: Ontario, Cambridge, Newfoundland Canada Toronto

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Recent comments

  • Steffanie King
    February 21, 2012 - 18:55

    I think some people are missing the point. The money for this monument is already there. I see this as closer for all those affected by this. This monument will not only act as a reminder but as a symbol of courage for all the women who fought their battles and stood up for what they knew was a mistake. The people who did not survive as a result of their negligence, will be greatly missed. Anyone who disagrees with this monument should keep their opinions to themselves because their lives were clearly not affected and they may not be grasping the concept of the whole idea of the monument being done in the first place.

  • Geri
    February 21, 2012 - 08:58

    Why not have the monument designed as a wedding dress or one that was mentioned in this story, one to signify that women do not make it to attend such functions. Names can be listed, for a small donation in memory of a loved one. It can be done in pale pink, to represent Breast Cancer.

  • Wanda
    February 21, 2012 - 08:48

    Anyone complaining about this monument would feel otherwise if you had a loved one who suffered unnecessarily, or even worse, eventually passed away, because of these errors. We all know the horrors of cancer, treatments, etc. It doesn't have to be extravagant.

  • flexxa
    February 21, 2012 - 08:24

    ...no disrespect to those who's lives were effected but resources will be used to create a monument to acknowledge the victims of incompetence in a system and its employees who are still active today?? Wow - why not take the money and put it towards improvements in facilities, training and equipment so it doesn't happen again.

  • Donny Dooley
    February 21, 2012 - 07:35

    The monument is a waste of money! What is it with this place and monuments anyway? The TCH is littered with foolish ol' roadside memorials. Walking around Quidi Vidi Lake is like walking through a graveyard with memorial plaques on every bench...enough already!

  • omg
    February 21, 2012 - 07:35

    Seem like everytime something goes wrong, someone makes a mistake their solution is to put up a monument,.... I am pretty sure Eastern health can use the $$$$$$ for better purposes... Put the funds towards a new MRI machine to cut the wait time, invest in other types of necessary equipment .... Don't get me wrong it was terrible what these women went through but.....Another monument ... Please we can do without it

  • Peggy
    February 21, 2012 - 07:26

    I agree, this recognition monument is long overdue. However, I think it should be established in a more public area where mostly everyone can see it, other than the Dr. Bliss Murphy Clinic or the Gardens. That would seem like an appropriate place, but then there would be only a limited number of people that would see it and be able to reflect on its meaning.