Medical Negligence
By Conal McGarrity
Latest News

Terminally Ill Woman Awarded €2.1 million in Cervical Screening Judgment

Ruth Morrissey, a terminally ill 37-year-old mother from County Limerick, has been awarded €2.1 million in her High Court action against the Health Service Executive (HSE) and two American based laboratories for misreading her cervical smear tests and failing to inform her about the results of the test.

Mrs. Morrissey was diagnosed with Cervical Cancer in 2014 and was not informed until May 2018 that a 2014 review showed two smear tests taken under the HSE run Cervical Check Programme were reported incorrectly.

The Court heard that screening tests were conducted in 2009 and 2012 and that had these tests been reported correctly Mrs. Morrisey would have been able to undergo treatment and would not have developed cancer. This is perhaps the most significant settlement to date as it has produced the first High Court Judgment in relation to the Cervical Check scandal in the Republic of Ireland and will be used as a guide for other claims of this nature. Under the HSE Cervical Check Programme at least 1500 women who had been diagnosed with cervical cancer did not have their test results reviewed by the National Screening Service to determine if the disease could have been flagged up sooner. Information about the audited smear tests was withheld from 162 of these women following the review.

In his Judgment Mr Justice Kevin Cross found that Quest Diagnostics, one of the companies contracted by the HSE to carry out the smear tests, was negligent and in breach of duty by not analysing Mrs. Morrissey’s 2009 smear test properly. Another testing laboratory, MedLab Pathology Ltd, was found to be negligent in not testing the adequacy of the smear test slide in 2012. The Judge noted that had the 2009 slide been properly analysed and the 2012 test deemed inadequate, the events that would have followed meant that Mrs. Morrissey would probably have never contracted cancer.

He stated that she had suffered a ‘life sentence of which she is fully aware which is expected to take effect within two years.’ Vicky Phelan, a prominent campaigner in uncovering the scandal, settled her case against the laboratories last year for €2.5 million. She welcomes this Judgment and stated that Mrs.Morrissey’s case is significant because the HSE has been found to be liable for the operation of the Screening Programme and any errors that arise from it. Taoiseach Leo Varadkar had previously stated that cases of this nature would be resolved through mediation and women would not have to go through the Court process to get compensation.

This has proved to be incorrect. In the aftermath of this Judgment a planned Tribunal is to be set up to give victims of the scandal and alternative to Court Proceedings.

A representative from the Department of Health has stated ‘the intention is that hearings of this Tribunal would be private unless the Claimant requests to hold the hearing in public.’ The bravery of women like Ruth Morrissey and Vicky Phelan has paved the way for future claims in relation to the Cervical Check Programme.

There now appear to be clearer guidelines for awarding women affected by the scandal with damages as a result of negligence and breach of duty by the HSE and the laboratories. Many Irish women have suffered unimaginable loss as a result of this scandal and are entitled to claim compensation for this. At PA Duffy and Company our clinical negligence team are highly experienced in bringing proceedings against Government bodies and representative companies.

Our solicitors handle these cases in a professional and compassionate manner.

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