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Cancer death journalist’s fight to obtain medical records revealed by partner

Henry McDonaldThe partner of a journalist who died of cancer earlier this year has revealed his struggle to access his own medical records in his final weeks.

Charlotte Blease has accused doctors of “failing” patients after telling of Henry McDonald’s fight to obtain the information in order to seek second opinions.

Henry, who was the Belfast News Letter’s political editor at the time of his death, passed away in February aged 57.

He was first diagnosed with cancer in 2018 when a tumour on his stomach was discovered, prompting chemotherapy, and the disease returned last year after he developed sepsis.

In a piece about Henry for The Guardian, Charlotte wrote: “Doctors seem to think patients like Henry, who had survived multiple paramilitary death threats, lack the emotional fortitude or capacity to read about their own health.

“Despite progress in England, four in five primary care practices still fail to offer online access – and because few British hospitals have digitised their health records, online access to specialist care is beyond the realm of the possible.”

Henry and Charlotte were finally able to obtain the record by post, four weeks after they first sought them.

She added: “As we did not own a scanner, a friend volunteered to convert them into pdfs so we could send them to other clinics via more modern but less secure methods – i.e. email.

“We immediately felt slightly more in control of an already dire situation. We pursued our medical contacts in the US and the Republic of Ireland. Nothing could be done. But we knew we’d tried everything.

“Henry was intensely trusted as a journalist in our troubled corner of the world, because he stood up for justice and the facts, and didn’t underestimate his readers.

“He never caved into tribalism or romancing about the past. If only the medical profession could be more like him.”