Thursday 19 September 2019

News of inoperable cancer like 'being hit by a bus', says husband of woman suing over alleged misinterpretation of smear test

The husband of a terminally ill woman who has sued over the alleged misinterpretation of her CervicalCheck smear test has told how their lives have been turned upside down since her cancer diagnosis.
The husband of a terminally ill woman who has sued over the alleged misinterpretation of her CervicalCheck smear test has told how their lives have been turned upside down since her cancer diagnosis.

Tim Healy

The husband of a terminally ill woman who has sued over the alleged misinterpretation of her CervicalCheck smear test has told how their lives have been turned upside down since her cancer diagnosis.

"My wife told me over the phone. I was in shock and I broke down. I will never forget that phone call," he said of the cancer diagnosis a few days before Christmas 2015. 

“That Christmas was a difficult time for all of us. We knew there was something big coming down the line,” he said.

On the third day of the woman's action against laboratories and the HSE, her husband said the recurrence of her cancer two years later was "like being back in another big hole again."

When they got the news last year that the cancer was inoperable, her husband said "it was like being hit by a bus."

Earlier the legal team representing the mother-of-two opposed mediation talks while it said the HSE denies primary liability in the case.

Patrick Treacy SC, for the woman, said his side was opposed to it and he said it was incomprehensible to the woman and her husband how the HSE can deny primary liability.

Counsel said to spend days in mediation when the HSE are saying it has no primary liability is a “a fool’s errand" and would put the mediation to nought.

The woman, who is in her 40s, now has Stage 4 cancer and has had palliative chemotherapy. She cannot be identified by order of the court.

Along with her husband, she  has brought an action against the HSE and three laboratory companies which tested her smear slide in 2010 and reported it as negative.

Mr Justice Kevin Cross said he was reluctant to direct mediation take place when there was opposition to it, but he urged  all sides to have discussions.

Eoin McCullough SC, for the laboratories, applied to the court for a direction that mediation take place this week.

Patrick Hanratty SC, for the HSE, supported the application.

Mr Treacy, for the woman, said her legal team, who were experienced in this type of mediation, had a certain “jaundiced view” especially in CervicalCheck cases where the HSE do not accept primary liability.

The couple have sued the HSE, Sonic Healthcare (Ireland) Ltd, Medlab Pathology Ltd, both with offices in Dublin and US laboratory Clinical Pathology Laboratories Incorporated of Austin, Texas.

It is claimed they all owed the woman a a duty of care in the provision of the cervical screening programme and in the provision of all services associated with it.

The woman on September 17, 2010, underwent a cervical smear test as part of the national cervical screening programme.

Her sample was sent for review and a laboratory report showed the sample was satisfactory for assessment and there was no evidence of the presence of abnormal tissue.

It is claimed there was an alleged failure to correctly report and diagnose and there was an alleged misinterpretation of her smear slide taken in 2010 and that her cancer was allowed to develop and spread unidentified, unmonitored and untreated until she was diagnosed with cervical cancer in December 2015. The claims are denied.

The case continues.

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