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.