Cancer misdiagnosis a warning for patients

Mourned TV presenter Nirvana Azzopardi had filed court protest against obstetric consultant who initially ignored what turned out to be most aggressive of breast cancer types

Nirvana Ciavola Azzopardi
Nirvana Ciavola Azzopardi

An obstetric consultant whom TV presenter Nirvana Ciavola Azzopardi had accused of misdiagnosing her cancer, was not found guilty of the "prolonged" neglect of her duties, the Medical Council had ruled.

Azzopardi died after a two-year battle with cancer at the age of 40 on Thursday. She had claimed her doctor had misdiagnosed the cancer that she would later succumb to.

But the Medical Council, the body that regulates doctors in Malta, had found that the doctor had acted "unethically and unprofessionally" in what they said was a breach of their medical practitioners' code of ethics.

Having graced the Maltese television screen since the 1990s, news that Azzopardi was suing her doctor over the alleged misdiagnosis had shocked people who were unaware of the TV presenter's struggle with a rare type of cancer.

Azzopardi had stated in a judicial protest in the courts that the obstetrician had given her an incorrect opinion by telling her that changes in the size of her breast were "100% nothing", and that changes were "normal" and "acceptable".

Azzopardi kept noticing variations in her breast that led her to a second consultation with the doctor in April 2011. It was here that the doctor suggested a mammogram to inspect the variations in the breast, something which led the TV presenter to believe that the previous examination had been totally incorrect.

Azzopardi was hit by terrible news when she later went to the Mater Dei Hospital's breast clinic, to find out that she had the most serious of cancers, a triple negative breast cancer. By the time she filed a judicial protest against the doctor, Azzopardi was suffering from stage 4 cancer, which had spread to her lymph nodes and her liver.

Azzopardi passed away in her sleep on Wednesday, 9 October, leaving to mourn her husband Marius Ciavola and her two sons.

St Julian's parish priest Claude Portelli described her courage as she faced her illness as an example for everyone. "What impressed me the most was the fact that she wanted to prepare herself for the final voyage. And she did this in all ways possible. She was so at peace with what was going to happen that she even planned her own funeral to the last detail, including the songs that would be sung."

Azzopardi had turned to religion for solace in her final years, according to Fr Portelli, who said the TV presenter would recite the rosary every day with her husband and sons. "She had a simple message of faith: that there was a better life after this one."

Towards the end of her funeral mass, held last Friday, Fr Portelli read out a letter Nirvana had written for the occasion, in which she told her loved ones not wait for people to fall sick before telling them they loved them. 

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@maltesejustice - what a load of rubbish you write. The actual details of the case are far more complex than anything your tiny mind could cope with. You would happily decide matters armed with nothing more than your deeply-rooted prejudice and your absolute ignorance of all matters medical (to say nothing of all matters judicial). The standard of reporting hasn't helped much either. And how you can say the same of the Judiciary and Legal Council, in the light of recent events, is absolutely beyond comprehension. Stop being lazy and try some learning and thinking before you talk again, would you ?
One does not know the whole story. The consultant might have proof to clarify the case. We only heard one side of the situation. We cannot be too quick to judge. I have heard that Nirvana RIP, had a very rare and very aggressive type of tumor. Very unlucky for her.
L-isem tat-tabib 'state secret'? X'weheljew wahlet jekkit-tabiba kienet unethical: xejn?
That the Medical Council would not find this "consultant" guilty was a forgone conclusion. One, however, would like to know the name of this "consultant" so that one would avoid him/her like the plague.
Unfortunately the Medical Council in small states like Malta protect their profession before they ever think of protecting their victims. The same happens with the Judiciary and the Legal council. These are untouchables and will resist any form or manner to regulate them. See what is happening to the absolutely necessary changes in the Legal Profession and in the Justice System. It is being opposed tooth and nail from within. Our Parliament does not help much either because 3/4 of our MPs are either doctors or lawyers. So what is the solution? I do not think there is one unless our Parliament is more technocrat than political when things can and would change.
Who is the doctor / consultant??? If someone is caught stealing 100euros is named om the times for ever. This doctor stole a live of a beautiful loving woman, a wife and a mother of two! NAME AND SHAME! I CANT STAND THE ARROGANCE AND NEGLIGENCE OF SOME DOCTORS!
Name and shame the obstetric consultant please.