Health Service Executive and American Laboratories Sued Amidst Cervical Smear Test Scandal
The Cervical Check programme was launched by the HSE in 2008 and was described as ‘a quality assured, organised and population-based screening programme.’ Women between the ages of 25 and 60 were invited for cervical smear testing on a yearly basis and the overall objective was to identify pre-cancerous cells and ultimately to vastly reduce the levels of cervical cancer amongst women in Ireland.
The much publicised scandal and the plight of women such as Vicky Phelan and Emma Mhic Mhutana is proof that the HSE have been grossly negligent in their failure to diagnose and provide treatment to thousands of Irish women.
At least 1500 women who had been diagnosed with cervical cancer did not have their smear test results reviewed by the National Screening Service to determine if the disease could have been flagged up sooner. Vicky Phelan was among 209 women who had abnormalities detected after their tests were reviewed. Information about the audited smear tests was withheld from 162 of these women following the review. To date, 17 of these women have died and in 15 of these cases the women were not informed about the abnormalities in their smear test.
This raises serious questions about the handling of the screening process by the HSE and the Government who have been accused of attempting to ‘cover up’ the scandal.
Some have wrongly accused physicians of negligence. This is not accurate. The role of physicians was merely to collect a sample of cells from the women and send it to a pathologist to be tested. The HSE employed the services of two American companies, Quest Diagnostics and Clinical Pathology Laboratories (CPL), to carry out the testing. It is, therefore, the HSE and the testing companies who have acted negligently in their failure to diagnose and treat appropriately.
Some women have already taken legal action. Vicky Phelan, who was the catalyst behind exposing the scandal, sued Clinical Pathology Laboratories for 2.5 million euros in the High Court. Her smear tests were incorrectly diagnosed and as a result she has become terminally ill.
37 year old mother Emma Mhic Mhatuna sued the HSE and Quest Diagnostics for 7.5 million euros. Sadly, Emma became terminally ill and died in October 2018.
Perhaps the most tragic element of this scandal is how so much of the death and illness could have been avoided had the HSE released the information about the abnormalities that were identified in the audited cervical smear tests.
Sinn Fein Spokesperson Louise O’Reilly stated that ‘the toxic culture of concealment and harassment pursued by the HSE and the Government against women who have been wronged by the state is now in full public view.’
At PA Duffy and Company our Clinical Negligence team are highly experienced in bringing legal action and government bodies and companies. Our expert solicitors handle these cases in a compassionate and professional manor.
In such a clear cut and tragic case of negligence we understand that court proceedings may seem daunting. However, we will make the process as simple and pain free as possible and help you to get the compensation you deserve.
If you have been affected by the cervical smear testing scandal or any other clinical negligence please contact us.