Tuesday 17 September 2019

Two more women - one given just 12 months to live - take High Court cases over smear tests

  • Women take cases following Vicky Phelan's High Court case
  • Two women take action over alleged delays in cervical smears
  • Third woman suffering from ovarian cancer takes case over previous cancer check
Vicky Phelan, the cancer patient whose case triggered the cervical smear test controversy (Brian Lawless/PA)
Vicky Phelan, the cancer patient whose case triggered the cervical smear test controversy (Brian Lawless/PA)

Tim Healy

Two more legal actions involving women suing over alleged delays relating to CervicalCheck smears have come before the High Court.

The cases are the first to be listed in the court since the CervicalCheck smear controversy arose last month when Limerick woman Vicky Phelan settled her action for €2.5million.

In court on Thursday, dates were set in July for the hearing of the two actions and for another action by a woman who has ovarian cancer. They all relate to previous cancer checks.

All cases are against the HSE and laboratories who carried out the original tests.

Mr Justice Kevin Cross also granted an order that the women in all three cases not be identified in any way.

In the first cervical smear case, the court heard the prognosis for the woman is "not good" and she has been given a life expectancy of between six to 12 months and only heard of the alleged misdiagnosis of a 2012 smear test on May 3 last.

In the second cervical smear case the court heard the woman is currently undergoing chemotherapy and radiotherapy as she suffers from cervical cancer and breast cancer.

Jeremy Maher SC, for the woman, said she had a smear test in 2009 and another in 2012, which came back as negative and her cervical cancer was diagnosed this year.

Counsel said it was their case the cervical cancer should have been detected earlier. He said a review of the smear tests was carried out in 2014 and 2015  but the woman was not informed of the review or of the review results which showed the original tests results were incorrect.

Counsel said the woman has a life expectancy "limited to months."

There would be a real concern if the case was not heard until October, he said.

In the ovarian cancer case, the court hear the woman involved had a family history of ovarian cancer and had checks between 2010 and 2017.

The woman had a hysterectomy and other procedures last year when it was discovered she had Stage 3 ovarian cancer which had not been diagnosed previously.

Patrick Treacy SC, for the woman, said his side would contend the diagnosis should made earlier and there were alleged indicators in 2013.

He asked that this matter be case-managed by the court and an early hearing be set because of the dire situation.

He said the solicitors involved were cooperating regarding discovery of documents necessary for the case.

Counsel for the HSE, Patrick Hanratty, said there was no objection to the application and the case was set down for July.

Fixing all three cases  to go  on trial for different dates in July, Mr Justice Cross urged the parties involved to explore alternative means of resolution.

The cancer-screening controversy emerged last month when 43-year-old Vicky Phelan from Limerick settled for €2.5 million her court action against a US laboratory that the CervicalCheck screening service had subcontracted to read smear tests.

Ms Phelan developed cancer after receiving a false negative result in her smear test. It later emerged that test results were misread in 209 cases.

The HSE said this week that it has made contact with 203 of the affected women and families and that meetings had either been held or arranged to discuss the audit and the response with them. At that stage six women/families have yet to be informed that they were included in the audit.

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