N.L.'s Eastern Health Authority settles $17M lawsuit

A $17.5-million settlement has been reached in the class action lawsuit against Newfoundland and Labrador's Eastern Regional Health Authority by breast cancer patients who were victims of faulty hormone receptor testing.

A $17.5-million settlement has been reached in the class action lawsuit against Newfoundland and Labrador's Eastern Regional Health Authority by breast cancer patients who were victims of faulty hormone receptor testing.

The settlement comes four years after the revelation that hundreds of breast cancer patients may have received inaccurate hormone receptor tests between 1997 and 2005. A judicial inquiry led by Judge Margaret Cameron was called in May 2007.  

"No amount of money can adequately compensate people who experienced this kind of error in their medical treatment," said Vickie Kaminski, CEO of the Eastern Regional Health Authority, in an emailed statement.

Elizabeth Finlayson testified at the Cameron Inquiry in St. John's, Oct. 2008. ((CBC))
"This settlement is meant to demonstrate Eastern Health's sincere apology to the class members and their families and to provide some recognition of their ongoing struggles."

The email included a statement from a class action member.

"Class members wanted a financial settlement that demonstrated sincerity and respect," said Rosalind Jardine. "This settlement does that."

Breast cancer patient Elizabeth Finlayson, of Wabush, N.L., also spoke with CBC News.

"I'm glad it is over with because the last year has been hard on me and my family but no money in the world will ever make me better. I've been battling infection for the last three weeks. I'm just exhausted from all this.

Like I said, no money in the world … I don't care if I get a dollar or 50 cents. It doesn't matter. I'll never get rid of this cancer. I'll eventually die with it," said Finlayson

More than 2,000 cancer patients, spouses and family members are part of the of the class that is being compensated.

The class action suit between representative plaintiff Verna Doucette and the Eastern Regional Integrated Health Authority was filed in the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador in July 2006.

Doucette intended to drive to St. John's  from her home on the Port aux Port Peninsula, in western Newfoundland, for settlement negotiations that began on Oct. 28, but she was diagnosed with H1N1 flu the day after she left home.

A committee of six class action members carried on negotiations on her behalf.

Hormone receptor tests help determine which treatment is likely to work for a breast cancer patient.

An inaccurate test may result in a patient missing a treatment, such as tamoxifen, that might have improved their chance of surviving cancer.

After a massive retesting of hormone receptor samples was done at laboratories outside of Newfoundland and Labrador, it was determined that more than 400 cancer patients in Newfoundland and Labrador had received inaccurate hormone receptor test results.

Cameron's inquiry reported in March 2009. It called for sweeping changes to the way medical laboratories are operated in Newfoundland and Labrador.