Tuesday 23 July 2019

CervialCheck programme manager subpoenaed to appear in High Court over alleged smear misreading

Ruth and Paul Morrissey pictured at the Four Courts Pic: Collins Courts
Ruth and Paul Morrissey pictured at the Four Courts Pic: Collins Courts

Tim Healy

CervicalCheck programme manager John Gleeson has been subpoenaed by a woman's lawyers to give evidence in her High Court case over alleged misreading of her smear test slides.

Lawyers for Ruth Morrissey want to hear evidence from Mr Gleeson and Simon Kelly, a former chairperson of the Quality Assurance Committee of the National Cancer Screening Service.

Mr Justice Kevin Cross ruled on Friday they can be asked questions concerning governance in the context of her claim for exemplary damages.

Ms Morrissey (37), who has cervical cancer and whom one screening expert has said has a maximum two years to live, has sued the HSE and two US laboratories over alleged misreading of two smear tests in 2009 and 2012 under the CervicalCheck screening programme.

John Gleeson of CervicalCheck
John Gleeson of CervicalCheck

On Friday, the court heard CervicalCheck programme manager John Gleeson can attend the High Court next week but Mr Kelly who is retired and in Lanzarote caring for his wife who is recovering from an accident, had expressed his non availability.

The judge said he would not set aside the subpoena but the HSE and Morrissey sides can agree a date when when Mr Kelly can give evidence to the court.

It is understood Dr David Gibbons, a former chair of the Cytology/Histology Group within the Quality Assurance Committee of the National Cancer Screening Service, will also give evidence next week.

The court was told Mr Gleeson wrote a letter to Ms Morrissey's consultant in 2016 concerning audit results on her previous smears of 2009 and 2012. The results revealed the smear tests were reported incorrectly as negative and Ms Morrissey was told the results in May 2018.

Ms Morrissey and her husband Paul Morrissey of Kylemore, Schoolhouse Road, Monaleen, Co Limerick, have sued the HSE; US laboratory Quest Diagnostics Ireland Ltd, with offices at Sir John Rogerson's Quay, Dublin; and Medlab Pathology Ltd, with offices Sandyford Business Park, Dublin 18.

It is claimed there was failure to correctly report and diagnose and misinterpretation of her smear samples taken in 2009 and 2012 and a situation allegedly developed where Ms Morrissey’s cancer spread unidentified, unmonitored and untreated until she was diagnosed with cervical cancer in June 2014.

It is further claimed a review of the 2009 and 2012 smears took place in 2014 and 2015 with the results sent to Ms Morrissey's treating gynaecologist in 2016. It is alleged she was not told  until May 2018 of those review results which showed  her smears were reported incorrectly.

If Ms Morrissey had been told the results of the smear test audits in late 2014 or early 2015, she would have insisted on an  MRI and other scans, it is claimed.

The HSE has admitted it owed a duty of care to Ms Morrissey but not to her husband. The laboratories deny all claims.

In court on Friday, during discussion of the subpoenas, Patrick Treacy SC, for Ms Morrissey, asked "why did we have to wait until Ruth Morrissey has cancer before there was any supervision" and why were the audit findings not immediately disclosed. The HSE is denying "primary liability " in the case, he said.

Patrick Hanratty SC, for the HSE, said Mr Kelly  had nothing to do with audits and has since retired from the HSE.

The HSE is struggling to meet a "brand new"" case which has been "parachuted into the action", he added.

The case continues on Tuesday.

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