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Draft law on mandatory disclosure of errors by doctors is ‘seriously flawed’, says Mary Lou McDonald


Mary Lou McDonald

Mary Lou McDonald

Mary Lou McDonald

Government proposals on mandatory disclosure for doctors, telling patients what may have gone wrong, are “seriously flawed,” Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald has said.

She said she didn’t believe the Dáil could “let go” some defects in the draft legislation, which follows the death of cervical cancer campaigner Vicky Phelan.

A debate of two hours to process the changes was not enough, she said. “We have waited four years for this legislation.”

Taoiseach Micheál Martin said however that the draft law – due to go through the Dáil today – was in line with the Scally report into the scandal of incorrect smear-test results that were not reported to patients.

“Persons presenting to screening would be advised that they may seek a review of their files in the event of a cancer arising between their first screening and the second,” Mr Martin said. The legal duty to make that disclosure would close off the gap in patient protection and was “exactly in line” with the recommendations,” he said.

“We just want to do what is right for the women of Ireland.”

Ms McDonald said that there no legal obligation on clinicians for the woman at the point of diagnosis to be told that she has the right to review. She said she had the support of Labour Party leader Ivana Bacik on the matter. The latter confirmed her desire to adjourn the debate on the Patient Safety Bill to next week.

Ms Phelan had been very clear on what she wanted to see, Ms McDonald said, which was change and accountability, with mandatory disclosure meaning a legal obligation on clinicians and healthcare providers to tell a woman if there had been a ‘discordant, erroneous or incorrect ‘reading of their cervical cancer screening slide.

The Bill didn't provide for that demand, she said. “We have a problem in that [it] does not provide for that mandatory disclosure. There is provision for a right to review provided, and that's a welcome thing, but there is a distinction between a right to review and a positive obligation on a clinician or a health service provider to reveal or pass on information.

“The legal responsibility on clinicians and organisations is what women at fought for. It's the measure recommended by Dr Gabriel Scally.

“I believe that there are still serious flaws in the legislation. I don't believe that the amendments that the minister has proposed address those flaws.”

She added: “When we marked the death of Vicky, we said that we would work together. What that means. in my strong opinion. is that we have the debate for two hours today and adjourn, and that more time is made available next week.”

Ms McDonald also said that she was also concerned that a requested review in

the case of a cervical smear would mean “that the labs themselves would actually decide the scope and the shape of the review.

“I don't believe we can pass legislation that lets those things go.”

The Taoiseach said he would ask the chief whip, Jack Chambers, to liaise with

the Opposition whips on the matter.

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