Monday 20 May 2019

Terminally-ill woman settles CervicalCheck smear controversy case

Latest legal action concerning smear tests
Latest legal action concerning smear tests

Tim Healy

A woman who has terminal cancer and sued over CervicalCheck smears has settled her High Court action.

This is the first case to be resolved since the CervicalCheck smear test controversy erupted and Limerick woman Vicky Phelan settled her court case for €2.5m.

In the latest case the woman and her husband brought an action over smear tests carried out in 2009 and 2012 which had come back as 'no abnormality detected.'. She claimed she was not told until May of this year that reviews of the 2009 and 2012 tests  showed the presence of pre cancerous cells and the tests had been allegedly reported incorrectly.

The details of the latest settlement are confidential. Proceedings in the case were only started at the start of the month  and the court heard the woman was in a parlous condition and could succumb at any moment.

When  the case of the woman- who by order of the court cannot be identified - was called in the High Court today Ciara McGoldrick BL, instructed by Cian O'Carroll solicitor told Mr Justice Kevin Cross it had been settled.

The woman and her husband sued the HSE and the US laboratory, Quest Diagnostics Incorporated which processed, screened and reported on cervical cytology samples provided by Irish women.

In 2009 the woman had a cervical smear test as part of the national cervical screening programme and it was sent to a laboratory operated by Quest Diagnostics. The report back on the sample indicated no abnormality was detected.

In 2012, the woman had another smear test under the national programme  and the sample reviewed came back as  no abnormality detected.

As a result of a routine smear test four years later in 2016, pre cancerous type cells were detected and the woman was referred for a procedure..

In 2017 the woman was diagnosed as having invasive cervical cancer and  she underwent chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

It was claimed that  subsequent to her diagnosis and unknown to the woman reviews were carried out by the HSE and Quest of the prior cervical screening of a number of women who had been diagnosed with cervical cancer.

The review of this woman's sample which was take in 2009, it was claimed showed the original report in relation to the  result was incorrect and in fact the correct result was that high grade pre cancerous cells were present.

This result it was claimed was not communicated to  the woman and a review of the 2012 smear sample also showed the original result was incorrect. The review of the 2012 results was not given to the woman either, it was alleged.

The woman, it was claimed was told by a doctor in May 2018 the reviews carried out of her 2009 and 2012 smears showed they were reported incorrectly.

That month the woman was diagnosed as having suffered a progression or recurrence of her cervical cancer  and she was told it was incurable. Her prognosis was extremely poor and limited to months.

It was claimed there was an alleged failure to advise, treat or care for the woman in a proper, skillful. diligent and careful manner and an alleged failure to use reasonable skill, care and judgment when reviewing her smear samples taken in 2009 and 2012.

The woman it was claimed was deprived of the opportunity of timely and effective investigation and management of her condition and she was allegedly deprived of the opportunity of treatment at a time when her disease was amenable to curative treatment.

It was further alleged the woman's  life expectancy had been significantly reduced and there was an alleged failure to advise her of the results of the reviews of her smear test and as a result her constitutional right to bodily integrity and privacy were allegedly infringed.

The claims were denied.

By virtue of the delay in diagnosis, the woman it was claimed has lost the opportunity of cure and her life expectancy has been severely impaired and is in the order of months.

This was the fourth case to be listed in the High Court since the CervicalCheck smear controversy arose when Limerick woman Vicky Phelan settled her action for €2.5million. Another case relating to ovarian cancer has also come before the court.

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