Christine Murphy-Whyte, Chairperson, Europa Donna Ireland
We in Europa Donna Ireland are deeply saddened at the loss of our Chairperson, Christine Murphy-Whyte, who died on 20 August, aged 58.
Christine had over 33 years full-time employment in the disability area, mostly at senior management level. She worked with and on behalf of people with disabilities in the fields of education/training and employment, disability services, advocacy, and national policy development and had extensive experience at both practitioner and management levels in the fields of research, training and development, standards, certification and quality assurance. Formerly Head of Policy and Public Affairs with the National Disability Authority, she took early retirement in 2005, following diagnosis and treatment for breast cancer.
Christine joined Europa Donna Ireland when its first national conference - Best Results for Women - Working Together for Best Breast Cancer Services Nationwide (2006) – was being planned. She brought to the project her fine administrative talents and her quick appreciation of advocacy, informed by her own experience of the disease, and she played a very significant part in the success of that conference. She was also central to the second national conference – Surviving Breast Cancer (2008). She became Chair of EDI and oversaw various publications, culminating in 9 Things you should know about breast cancer, for which EDI won the Crystal Clear Health Literacy Award earlier this year. This project was central to her determination that accessible information about breast cancer must be available to all women. Christine was a tireless campaigner for evidence-based, best practice health policy changes to ensure access for all women in Ireland to specialist breast centres and to screening.
In Ireland she ably represented the patient voice on HIQA reports – The Report of the investigation into the circumstances surrounding the provision of care to Rebecca O’Malley…(2008), The Report of the investigation into…the Mid-Western Regional Hospital Ennis (2009) and The Report of the National Quality Review of symptomatic breast disease services in Ireland (2010).
In January 2007 she was elected to the Board of EUROPA DONNA – The European Breast Cancer Coalition. She was Vice President at the time of her death and made a very significant contribution to the work of EUROPA DONNA at European level. Susan Knox, Executive Director of EUROPA DONNA, says “She was a committed, dedicated advocate who fought the disease with grace and fortitude until the very end. She has provided us with an example of what an advocate should and can be”. Indeed she was a natural patient advocate – informed, articulate, passionate and very clear as to goals. Professor Niall O’Higgins has said “Everyone involved in one way or another with breast cancer is in her debt and will miss her greatly…She was a heroic figure. The impact of her work will endure.”
Her loss is a great loss to breast cancer patient advocacy both here and in Europe. We will miss her enormously but will do our best to continue her work. Christine was working on plans for Breast Health Day (15 October) up to a few days before she died and we will dedicate that day to her.
Christine is survived by her husband, Michael, their three sons, Stephen, Darren and Jason, her mother Gisela, her brothers and sisters and extended family. We offer them our deepest sympathy and heartfelt condolences. We would also like to thank them for their generous inclusion of EDI in Christine’s funeral.
We are very grateful for the messages of support we have received from cancer organisations in Ireland and from Europa Donna members around Europe.
Amongst many others, Marie Ennis, an EDI Committee member, has paid a moving tribute to Christine in her own blog Journeying Beyond Breast Cancer