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Some cells in woman's 2009 smear test not normal, expert tells High Court


Action: Ruth Morrissey was told she had cancer in 2014. Picture: Collins

Action: Ruth Morrissey was told she had cancer in 2014. Picture: Collins


Action: Ruth Morrissey was told she had cancer in 2014. Picture: Collins

A cervical screening expert who examined a 2009 smear slide of a woman suing over alleged misreading of her cervical tests has told the High Court it took him less than a minute to detect an abnormality.

Dr Michael McKenna said 95pc of the cells on the slide were atypical, but some others identified as abnormal with cells showing darker with a staining intensity.

Dr McKenna was giving evidence on the second day of the resumed action by Limerick woman Ms Morrissey against the HSE and two US laboratories.

He told the court that he identified cells that were darker in the sample and with a staining intensity and irregularity of outline.

Dr McKenna is a consultant cytopathologist in charge of one of the North's four laboratories responsible for screening cervical smear tests.

He said he examined Ms Morrissey's 2009 slide, which had been tested by Quest Diagnostics at its lab in Wyoming, in October last year. The doctor said there were single cells which were normal and looked like cornflakes but he could also clearly see a very dark and large group of cells.

The darker cells would be a "red flag". He said at even four magnification he concluded you would need to go back and have a look and there was a heightened level of awareness.

He said in the case of atypical cells, the screener would pass it on to the pathologist for further examination.

Earlier in his evidence, Dr McKenna said primary cervical screening should have a high sensitivity for detecting abnormalities and when the sample is being tested, if there is any doubt, it should be passed on to the pathologist.

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

It is claimed there was an alleged failure to correctly report and diagnose and there was an alleged misinterpretation of her smear samples taken in 2009 and 2012.

A situation, it is claimed, 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, but she was not told until May 2018 of those review results which showed her smears were reported incorrectly.

The Morrisseys further contend 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.

The court has already heard the HSE admits it owed a duty of care to Ms Morrissey, but not to her husband. The laboratories denies all claims.

The case continues.

Irish Independent