Sunday 17 February 2019

CervicalCheck victims to face adversarial tribunal

Judge Mary Irvine will chair the tribunal next year. Photo: Collins Courts
Judge Mary Irvine will chair the tribunal next year. Photo: Collins Courts
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

A compensation tribunal that is to be set up to hear claims by women at the centre of the CervicalCheck scandal will be open to the same adversarial process as a court case, it has emerged.

Women who developed cervical cancer after getting wrong test results will still have to prove their case.

However, the tribunal will be in private and defendants will not be subject to the same public scrutiny.

The tribunal, which is not expected to be up and running until well into next year and must be established under new legislation, will be chaired by Judge Mary Irvine.

Some 221 women who developed cervical cancer received wrong smear test results after undergoing screening with CervicalCheck.

It was not until the Vicky Phelan court case in April that the majority found out CervicalCheck did an audit of their test results after being notified of their cancer.

However, the audits were not passed to a majority of women. Twenty of the women have since died. It will still be up to the women to prove the wrong result was due to negligence and not to the limitations of science.

Health Minister Simon Harris said he may also set up a non-statutory ex-gratia scheme to compensate the women who did not receive their audits as per the open disclosure policy of the HSE.

It is unclear what level of compensation would be involved.

The compensation tribunal chair, Judge Irvine, has been a judge of the court of appeal for four years.

The proposed tribunal was put forward in a report by Judge Charles Meenan, who was asked by the Government to come up with an alternative to going to court.

Women will still have to prove their case, but the proceedings will be held in private.

Voluntary

The minister said that "once established, cases will be dealt with in a timely manner".

"The tribunal will differ from the current court process in that it will be voluntary for all parties," said Mr Harris.

Women can also appeal their case to the High Court and this may happen in several instances.

The highest award of €7.5m made in the courts so far was to the late Emma Mhic Mhathúna, the mother of five who died from cervical cancer last autumn.

Her tests were negligently read.

Meanwhile, scores of legal claims by women against CervicalCheck have now been lodged and some will need to be fast-tracked next year because of their failing health.

Irish Independent

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