Saturday 19 January 2019

Mother dying from cancer sees court case delayed as US lab denies blame

Ruth Morrissey. Picture: Collins
Ruth Morrissey. Picture: Collins
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

A terminally ill young mother, who is among the women at the centre of the CervicalCheck controversy, must wait until early next year for her High Court case to continue after one of the laboratories she is suing produced an unexpected expert report, it emerged yesterday.

Ruth Morrissey's legal team said there was a denial of liability previously but the "denial of causation" was not anticipated.

Ms Morrissey (37), the mother of seven-year-old Libby, from Schoolhouse Road, Monaleen, Co Limerick, has breast and cervical cancer.

The court was told she may have less than two years to live.

She alleges there was a failure to correctly interpret, report and diagnose smear samples taken in 2009 and 2012, leading to her cancer spreading and untreated until she was diagnosed with cervical cancer in June 2014.

The case opened in July after mediation failed. In July, Ms Morrissey's husband Paul in harrowing evidence told of how devastating it was to hear his daughter say: "Mammy, please don't die, don't leave."

New developments in the case mean her legal team need more time and access to her test slides and tissue blocks from surgery.

She is suing the Health Service Executive and the US laboratory Quest Diagnostics Ireland, which has offices at Sir John Rogerson's Quay, Dublin. She is also taking a case against Medlab Pathology, Sandyford Business Park.

Her counsel, Jeremy Maher, SC told the court that Quest Diagnostics Ireland had only earlier this month provided his side with a new report which denied that Ms Morrissey's cancer had been caused as a result of any error in the reading of her slides.

He said this amounted to a completely new defence and Ms Morrissey required more time to engage experts to rebut that allegation.

He told Judge Kevin Cross that Quest Diagnostics had provided a report from a US expert who had re-examined tissue sample tests that had been carried out when Ms Morrissey's cervical cancer had been discovered in 2014 .

This expert was of the view that even if there had been negligence on the part of Quest in reading the slides it had nothing to do with the 2014 cancer diagnosis.

Her legal team had only been informed of this on September 7.

There was now not only a denial of liability but a denial of causation as well.

This was a much more serious assertion that Ms Morrissey was not in a position to meet.

Ms Morrissey's experts previously had access to her slides for only 13 days while the defendants had them in their possession for 64 days.

Both Mr Michael Cush SC, counsel for Quest, and Mr Eoin McCullough SC, for Medlab, told the court they were not opposing the application for an adjournment but stated the matter should be put back until January next year. Judge Cross said "it may be the pattern of the future" that these cases will proceed at normal rather than faster speed.

Irish Independent

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