Thursday 14 November 2019

CervicalCheck scandal - tribunal of compensation recommended by judge

Vicky Phelan. Photos: Frank McGrath, Mark Condren
Vicky Phelan. Photos: Frank McGrath, Mark Condren

Eilish O’Regan

A TRIBUNAL of compensation should be set up to hear legal claims by women at the centre of the CervicalCheck scandal, a High Court judge said today.

Mr Justice Charles Meenan was asked to look at alternatives to going to court for women who developed cancer after getting a wrong test result from CervicalCheck.

In his report published today Judge Meenan has called for a tribunal of compensation  to be established.

It would be able to award damages to women who can prove they are the victims of negligence.

They would continue to have the right to go to the High Court if they are not satisfied with the tribunal.

Up to 221 women, including twenty who have died, were given wrong test results.

Not all are the victims of negligence and in some cases the limitations of the test meant their abnormalities could not be detected.

It was acknowledged an alternative to the ordeal of going to court, particularly for women who are fighting cancer, had to be proposed.

The highest court award was given so far to the late Emma Mhic Mhathuna, the mother of five who recently died.

Vicky Phelan, whose High Court case revealed the existence of CervicalCheck audits ,most of which had not been passed on to women,  received €2.5m .

Hearings in a tribunal of compensation would be heard in private and be less formal than a court process.  

This alternative system would take into account the issue of liability, each person's Constitutional right of access to the courts and all parties' Constitutional rights to fair procedures.

 For these reasons he notes that the system must be voluntary.

In his report Judge Meenan recognises the courage and fortitude of  the women and their families who told him of their experiences of dealing with the devastating consequences of cervical cancer.

He also acknowledges the effects of the non-disclosure of audits, or disclosure in an unacceptable way, of the results of audits carried out following diagnosis.

Health Minister Simon Harris said: "I would like to thank Judge Meenan for his invaluable report.  He has carried out an extensive piece of work, including consultation with the women, their families and their representatives."

"Judge Meenan's report requires consideration by a number of Government Departments and I have committed this morning to returning to Government with proposals next month."

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