Tuesday 15 October 2019

'I'm too young to die' - mum sues over smear test reading

A judge in a specialist court might have to decide whether a man can keep making love to his wife of more than 20 years (stock photo)
A judge in a specialist court might have to decide whether a man can keep making love to his wife of more than 20 years (stock photo)

Tim Healy

A terminally ill woman with cervical cancer has told the High Court she feels "lost in the system" and "of no significance".

The mother of two claims she had a 95pc chance of being successfully treated if a smear test taken almost nine years ago was read and reported correctly.

The woman, who is in her 40s, was diagnosed with cervical cancer in 2015 and said she would not be "in this mess if my scan was read correctly in 2010".

She felt "hurt and let down" and her life and that of her family has been "turned inside out".

Asked by her counsel Hugh O'Keeffe SC how she felt about not being included in a HSE audit of cervical smears, she said: "I feel lost in the system, that I'm not important, I'm of no significance."

Asked about denials by the HSE and laboratories of liability for her situation, she said "people had responsibilities" and owe a duty of care and "someone didn't do their job right". She felt there is "no accountability" and wondered "where is the truth, does anyone care?"

"I am caught up in this mess and I am the one suffering," she said. "I am too young to die, I have two small children."

The woman, who cannot be named by court order, is suing the HSE as well as Sonic Healthcare and Medlab Pathology, both with offices at Sandyford, Dublin, and Clinical Pathology Laboratories, of Austin, Texas, over the alleged misreading and misreporting of a smear test taken in September 2010. Her husband has also sued. The defendants deny the claims.

It is claimed the 2010 smear was received by Medlab Pathology in Dublin and sent to Clinical Pathology Laboratories (CPL) in Austin to be dealt with and CPL reported the specimen was adequate and negative for signs of abnormality.

It was recommended the woman return for a routine smear test in three years' time.

Two slides were taken from the sample and her expert would say there were abnormal single cells and abnormal groups of cells readily identifiable on both slides, showing a high grade abnormality.

Patrick Treacy SC, also for the woman, said the expert will say these precancerous cells should have been identified and the woman referred immediately for a colposcopy and this would probably have prevented development of cervical cancer.

Another expert would say, if the slide was correctly read in 2010, she would have been called back and treated, there would have been a 95pc chance of a cure and less than a 1pc chance of her developing cervical cancer, counsel outlined.

After another smear test in September 2015 detected abnormalities, the woman was diagnosed with cancer and later had a radical hysterectomy and other surgery.

She has been receiving palliative chemotherapy and was given a prognosis of between 12 to 22 months, but a scan in January showed some reduction in her pelvic cancer and that a lump in her lung was gone.

The case continues on Tuesday.

Irish Independent

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