Tuesday 21 May 2019

'Uncertainty' is allowed for when reviewing screening slides, insists medical body

Ruling: Terminally ill mother Ruth Morrissey was awarded €2.1m in the High Courts. Photo: Collins Courts
Ruling: Terminally ill mother Ruth Morrissey was awarded €2.1m in the High Courts. Photo: Collins Courts
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

Medical scientists working in labs performing cervical screening for CervicalCheck said they were concerned about aspects of the High Court judgment in the Ruth Morrissey case.

Following on from similar statements from other groups, they said they were worried about the standard of "absolute confidence" outlined in the ruling of Judge Kevin Cross.

The ISO 15189 standard, to which the Irish laboratories are accredited, accepts the concept of uncertainty of measurement. This does not dictate a standard of "absolute confidence" in reporting, they said.

Ms Morrissey (37), who has terminal cervical cancer after getting an 'incorrectly reported smear test', was awarded €2.1m in damages.

The medical scientists' professional body, the Academy of Clinical Science and Laboratory Medicine, said cervical screening and indeed other screening programmes are bringing significant healthcare benefits to the Irish population and their continuance must be supported.

"Medical scientists providing this service use their considerable professional skill and judgment in examining the slides presented," it said.

"The quality assurance standards in Ireland include the review of each slide by more than one reviewer.

"The ISO 15189 standard, to which the Irish laboratories are accredited, accepts the concept of uncertainty of measurement. This does not dictate a standard of 'absolute confidence' in reporting.

"The recent High Court judgment requires clarification and consideration of its impact on this screening programme and all the clinical diagnostic services we provide."

Judge Cross said lab staff should apply "absolute confidence" before passing a woman's slide as normal. He said if there is any doubt they should recommend the woman for more investigation.

Doctors claim this will lead to more women undergoing unnecessary tests and treatments.

Quest, one of the laboratories sued by Ms Morrissey, has lodged an appeal against the judgment.

The other lab which was sued, Medlab, may also appeal.

The HSE also wants the State to lodge an appeal. Health Minister Simon Harris said he will await the decision of the attorney general, who is examining the judgment.

Judge Cross has described some of the public commentary on his judgment as "hysterical".

Meanwhile, the ex-gratia scheme to compensate women and bereaved families for non-disclosure of audits of tests is to get under way, but it could be up to six months before some payouts are made.

Letters of invitation have been issued. Each person will get the same payout.

In the case of Ms Morrissey, the High Court awarded €10,000 for this breach.

Irish Independent

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