Stephen and Irene Teap were ‘not told the truth’, Gabriel Scally says

Doctor who led inquiry into CervicalCheck scandal says current testing systems are as ‘good as can be’

Dr Gabriel Scally has welcomed the successful High Court case taken by Stephen Teap, saying he and his wife Irene, who died from cervical cancer following two misread smear tests, were “not told the truth”. Calling for transparency from health professionals, Dr Scally said there needed to be a shift away from “patronising and paternalistic” attitudes, which “a small proportion of doctors” still harbour.

“I am so delighted for Stephen that this is finally over,” he told RTÉ Radio’s Morning Ireland on Friday. “It has been a long and traumatic experience for him starting of course with his wife’s death and it has continued and you can see in his statement how traumatic it has been and there’s no reason why it had to be like this.”

The CervicalCheck programme “ran a really botched audit, it didn’t have proper quality assurance of the laboratories in United States”, he said. “Slides were sent to labs all over the place that CervicalCheck had no idea about that didn’t meet the required quality standards that were asked for in the contracts.”

Some of the labs have since disappeared, he added. “It’s very disturbing the whole thing. Stephen is quite right that more needs to happen. He supported the duty of candour that all doctors and health professionals should all have an obligation to tell the truth and be honest to their patients because that isn’t what happened. Stephen and his wife were not told the truth at the right time.”

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Dr Scally said that the public had good reason to be confident that the current laboratory testing services were “as good as they can be” and that the planned lab in the Coombe hospital would provide a good service for Ireland.

“The future is good in terms of the programme,” he said. However, there was a problem, as highlighted by Stephen Teap, with the justice system and legislation that meant patients could not complain about the standard of clinical care they receive. Such legislation should be removed, he urged.

“We must have openness and honesty. There is a duty of care for health professionals to tell the truth. And when things go wrong they should give a genuine apology,” he said.

Vivienne Clarke

Vivienne Clarke is a media monitor and reporter