Lawyers for a woman who is dying of cervical cancer have appealed in the High Court to the Health Service Executive (HSE) to settle her case over the alleged misreporting of her cervical smear slides.
Mr Justice Paul Coffey was told the 59-year-old woman is gravely ill and that it is only “a matter of days” before she dies.
Her senior counsel, Patrick Treacy, instructed by Cian O’Carroll Solicitors, said the woman’s husband informed the legal team late on Wednesday that she was now under hospice care and her situation is “so serious she cannot herself consult with her solicitor”.
Counsel said he was in court making a humanitarian request to the HSE to enter into mediation talks to resolve the matter or for the HSE to give an assurance that the woman’s right to general damages if she goes on to win her action be preserved after her death. The woman’s case is due for trial in the High Court in July.
All the claims made in the action are denied.
The woman at the centre of the case cannot be identified by order of the court.
Mr Treacy said he was asking the court to list the case again on Friday morning so that the parties, and in particular the HSE, can reflect on matters overnight.
Adjourning the case for one day, Mr Justice Paul Coffey encouraged the parties to engage further to see if a resolution can be found.
The judge said the parties have found themselves “at the edge of what the law can do” and it was now a case “where common decency and honour become involved”.
The woman has sued the HSE along with laboratory Eurofins Biomnis Ireland Limited, of Sandyford Industrial Estate, Foxrock, Dublin. The US laboratory CPL, based in Austin, Texas, which examined the woman’s August 2010 cervical smear slide, was added to the proceedings as a third party at the end of last month.
At issue in the case are two cervical smear slides taken under the CervicalCheck national screening programme in February 2010 and August 2010.
She has claimed that had smear samples taken in February 2010 or August 2010 been correctly reported she would have been treated by curative surgery and would not have developed invasive cervical cancer.
Instead, she says she underwent treatment with chemotherapy, radiotherapy and brachytherapy and in October 2022 she was diagnosed as having widespread metastatic disease.
It is claimed because of the alleged delay in diagnosis the woman lost the opportunity for a cure and her life expectancy was severely impaired and limited to months rather than years.
All the claims are denied.
Counsel for the HSE, Sarah Corcoran, told the court the pleas made on behalf of the woman were heard but there may be practical difficulties involved.
Senior counsel for CPL, Imogen McGrath, told the court it was a very complex case in relation to liability and causation and there was a great deal of investigation to do.