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Morrisseys were vindicated by the courts in their fight with HSE and labs over smears



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Ruth Morrissey went for a routine smear test offered by the State's CervicalCheck programme in August 2009, and was told the results of the cervical cancer screening were normal.

She went for another routine screen three years later through the same programme and was again told the slide results were negative.

Yet 11 years after her initial smear, she yesterday succumbed to the disease aged just 39.

A biopsy and MRI conducted in June 2014 confirmed she had cervical cancer, which returned in 2018 and was, at that stage, terminal.

But it wasn't until she got the grim prognosis in 2018 that she learned a review carried out in 2014 by the HSE showed both smears taken under the CervicalCheck screening programme had been incorrectly reported.

It subsequently emerged that 221 more women were not informed that their smear results had also been audited due to concerns over the results. The ensuing outcry by the women, their families and the public led the Government to establish a CervicalCheck Tribunal, chaired by Ms Justice Mary Irvine, to provide a less adversarial alternative to the courts for processing claims.

However the tribunal, which was due to begin in March, has been postponed due to Covid-19.

Meanwhile, in July 2018, Ms Morrissey, a married mother of one from Monaleen, Co Limerick, and her husband Paul sued both labs and the HSE, which administers the CervicalCheck screening programme.

Michigan-based lab Quest Diagnostics, with an office in Dublin's city centre and which examined the 2009 smear, was found by a High Court Judge to have been negligent and in breach of duty for failing to detect abnormalities in the smear sample.

The results from her 2012 smear - examined by US-based Medlab Pathology Ltd, at its office in Sandyford, south Dublin - were found by the same High Court judge, Mr Justice Kevin Cross, to have not used an adequate sample to give a clear reading.

The Morrisseys were subsequently awarded €2.1m in damages in July 2019.

The HSE was found liable on the basis of being "vicariously responsible" for the actions of the laboratories.

Last March, the Supreme Court held the High Court was correct in applying a standard for screening where screeners should have no doubt a sample is adequate and does not contain any suspicious material before stating it is clear.

While finding the High Court was incorrect to hold the HSE was vicariously liable for the negligent acts of the laboratories, it said the HSE had a "non-delegable duty" in respect of patients availing of CervicalCheck. It upheld most of the damages awarded but allowed Medlab's appeal over €575,000 of the sum awarded to Mr Morrissey.

Last week, the Supreme Court was told the Morrisseys had been paid the award.

Irish Independent