Saturday 18 January 2020

Cancer patient settles case against the HSE for €1.2m over smear test 'failure'


(stock photo)
(stock photo)

Tim Healy

A hospital has apologised to a woman with cervical cancer for a failure to detect an abnormality in her original smear test.

The apology from Galway University Hospital (GUH) was read to the High Court as the pensioner, who cannot be named by order of the court, settled her action against the HSE for €1.2m.

She is currently receiving palliative care for cervical cancer.

In a letter of apology read to the court, Chris Kane, general manager of GUH, offered "a sincere and unreserved apology" for "the failure to detect an abnormality in your original smear test".

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"We can only express our sincere regret to you for what has happened and for its devastating consequences."

The woman's counsel, Patrick Treacy SC, previously told the court his client was given the all-clear on tests taken under the cervical screening programme in 2006 and 2009.

In her action, it was claimed there was a failure to correctly report and diagnose and that her test of 2006 was misinterpreted so her cancer was allowed to develop and spread unidentified, unmonitored and untreated until she was diagnosed with cervical cancer in October 2009.

Had her 2006 smear sample been correctly reported, it was claimed, she would have been referred for a procedure which would have meant the pre-cancer would have been eradicated with a less than 5pc chance of recurrence and less than 1pc chance of an invasive cancer developing.

Liability was conceded in the case last December.

Following her diagnosis of stage 2 cervical cancer in October 2009, she underwent chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Five years ago, she was confirmed to have cancer in her right lung and her pelvis and was commenced on palliative chemotherapy. She later developed the disease in her left lung.

The court was also told previously she was referred by her GP to a gynaecologist in October 2009. A stage 2 invasive cervical cancer was diagnosed.

Counsel said the result of the 2009 smear sample came back saying "no abnormality detected" after her cancer diagnosis. "After that diagnosis was made, she got the result of the smear test which said 'all clear'," Mr Treacy said.

Reviews were carried out in 2012 of the 2009 smear test and it showed the original report of the smear test was incorrect. In 2013, a further review of the same smear sample showed a high grade squamous lesion and possible glandular involvement. The result, it was claimed, was not communicated to the woman.

In May of last year she was advised by her treating gynaecologist of the reviews carried out on her 2009 sample.

Mr Justice Kevin Cross, noting the settlement, offered his sympathy to the woman, who lost her husband late last year.

Irish Independent

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