Saturday 19 October 2019

Editorial: 'Blame game is a sorry affair in cervical check scandal'

'What is truly shocking is that patients’ anxieties are actually being added to.' Stock Image
'What is truly shocking is that patients’ anxieties are actually being added to.' Stock Image


THE women and families affected by the CervicalCheck scandal have shown immense dignity, candour and strength. Unfortunately the same can hardly be said for our State.

According to Dr Gabriel Scally, whose supplementary report on the screening programme was published this week, patients are looking for three things - the truth, an apology and to know that it will not ever happen again.

Not too much to expect, given what they have been put through.

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Yet they are still waiting.

After all they have endured, it seems extraordinary that, a year since their stories came into the public domain, they should still be required to plead for answers.

Not only have they not received them, what is truly shocking is that, far from being allayed, their anxieties are actually being added to.

For who could have believed after all the commitments and promises that yet more "disturbing" and "upsetting" revelations could be in store?

This was how the reaction to the news that smear tests were being read not just in six known labs but also in 10 others - which were unapproved in the United States and the UK - was characterised. The concern is the revelations could fuel doubts about the safety of what is a vital and life-saving service.

While Dr Scally, to his credit, went out of his way to ease fears, saying an investigation found no evidence the labs were sub-standard, it is of real concern that CervicalCheck was not aware the slides were being ferried to labs which officials in Dublin had never inspected.

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists is carrying out a review of the slides of more than 1,000 women who went through the CervicalCheck screening service.

Its work has taken on renewed urgency in light of the new revelations. The various investigations must be allowed to do their work. But what is unconscionable is that women could still be awaiting an apology from the State.

As campaigner Lorraine Walsh, who was directly affected by the smear test misdiagnosis controversy, said: "I want somebody in this country that is authorised by the State to say: 'I am sorry for what happened to you, and this shouldn't have happened, and if we had proper governance and correct procedures in place over the CervicalCheck programme, this wouldn't have happened and we are sorry for that'."

As expected, the controversy sparked heated exchanges in the Dáil yesterday between Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin. Mr Martin said there was no question that women "have been forced into traumatic legal action". He also said the Government had failed to deliver on promises made a year ago.

Really, these women have suffered enough and are entitled to something more than public blame and shame games in the Dáil.

Dr Scally and his team have so far furnished us with two valuable reports.

The State's soothing words have been shown to be hollow. The wait for a meaningful appropriate response compounds the injustice.

Irish Independent

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