Sunday 17 November 2019

What next for cancer scandal?

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Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

Q: The CervicalCheck scandal is not over - what is the latest development?

A: The HSE has secured agreement with the two main laboratories carrying out testing for CervicalCheck to extend their contracts which were due for expire this month. But it comes at a price.

Q: It's reassuring that there will be no interruption in lab testing. But what is the price?

A: The State has agreed to contribute to any compensation payouts which arise out of misread test results which are proven to be due to negligence. These cases would be taken by women who got a wrong result and went on to develop cervical cancer.

Q: Does this apply retrospectively or does the agreement only relate to cases which arise from now on?

A: The agreement relates to future cases which may arise. It is not retrospective.

Q: So the labs will be liable for any past cases?

A: There was an indemnity agreement worked out previously where the laboratories took legal responsibility for cases where negligence was proven.

Q: Which labs are involved?

A: Quest Diagnostics in New Jersey and Medlab Pathology, based in Sandyford, south Dublin. The Coombe lab also does testing but is not included.

Q: How many cases involved compensation so far?

A: There are three cases we know of where settlements were made after women who got an incorrect result developed cervical cancer. They are Vicky Phelan, who received a settlement of €2.5m, and Emma Mhic Mhathúna, who was awarded €7.5m - but all of this was not paid for by the labs. A third woman with terminal cancer settled for €2.5m in June.

Q: There are going to be scores more cases. We know that 221 women, 18 of whom have died, got a wrong result. But will they all receive compensation?

A: No. Each woman will have to prove the wrong result was due to negligence. Some will be due to the limitations of the testing.

Q: Dr Gabriel Scally, who reviewed CervicalCheck, said he believes it can continue to use the laboratories?

A: Yes, he could find no evidence to the contrary. A wider review of the lab testing is now under way.

Q: How much is this going to cost the State?

A: The bill is potentially high but unknown.

Irish Independent

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