HSE apologises to woman over cancer diagnosis as case settled

`Deep regret’ expressed regarding challenges faced by grandmother

A woman in remission from cervical cancer who sued claiming the cancer treatment had a damaging effect on her life has settled a High Court action over the alleged misreporting of her smear slide.

The HSE expressed “deep regret” in the High Court to the 63-year-old grandmother and her family and apologised for the challenges she has faced as a result of her diagnosis.

The settlement, on day 16 of the test action, is being regarded as significant for a number of other cases brought by women against various testing laboratories and linked to the CervicalCheck controversy. Those cases are due before the High Court in the coming months and the latest terms of settlement in this case, which centred on the legal issue of which laboratory should ultimately bear responsibility for the reading of a smear slide, will govern them.

There are seven cases in the pipeline which will be governed by the terms of settlement in this action with more due before the High Court later in the year.

In the apology read to the court, the HSE said it regretted that throughout the proceedings a dispute between laboratories and laboratory companies contracted to test smear slides “resulted in a delay in resolution of your case”.

It continued: “The HSE notes that your case has achieved resolution of the issues which have arisen between these various laboratories and is confident that the difficulties you have had to endure throughout these proceedings will be of benefit to many other women and their families in other cases.”

The woman had sued the HSE and three laboratories: Sonic Healthcare (Ireland) Ltd and Medlab Pathology Ltd, both of Sandyford Business Centre, Blackthorn Road, Sandyford Business Park, Dublin, and Clinical Pathology Laboratories Incorporated (CPL) of Austin, Texas, USA The settlement is against the HSE and CPL, with Medlab also paying a portion of the costs.

The woman’s claims were denied.

Her counsel, Patrick Treacy SC, with Jeremy Maher SC and Ciara McGoldrick, instructed by Cian O’Carroll solicitor, told the court on Friday that the settlement had been reached after more than two days of talks between the parties.

Mr Justice Paul Coffey expressed his delight that “this long saga of litigation” has come to the end for the woman.

The woman had a smear test under the CervicalCheck national screening programme in October 2010 which was reported as showing no abnormalities. Six years later she was diagnosed as having invasive cervical cancer.

In the proceedings, it was claimed the alleged delay in the diagnosis resulted in the woman developing invasive cervical cancer requiring more extensive treatment.

It was further claimed that, had the woman’s smear sample taken in 2010 been correctly reported, she could have been treated with one procedure.

The woman had to have a lymphadenectomy, chemotherapy, radiotherapy and brachytherapy and it is claimed she continues to suffer various side effects from her treatment.

At the opening of the case Mr Treacy SC told the court the woman is in remission but the treatment for her cervical cancer has had “an enormously damaging effect on her life”.

Counsel said this was not a case where there is a reduced life expectancy.

It was contended she was caused to suffer unnecessary pain, discomfort and distress and to be subjected to extensive surgical and medical interventions.

All the claims were denied.