Cervical cancer case hears of ‘significant difficulty’ for plaintiff

Ruth Morrissey facing terminal diagnosis because of alleged misreadings of tests

A "significant difficulty" has arisen for Ruth Morrissey, the Limerick mother faced with a terminal cancer diagnosis because of alleged misreadings of cervical smear tests, the High Court has heard.

Her counsel Jeremy Maher SC said that for this reason he was asking the court for an adjournment of next Tuesday's damages claims by Ms Morrissey (37) and her husband, Paul, against the HSE, the US laboratory Quest Diagnostics Ireland which has offices at Sir John Rogerson's Quay, Dublin, and Medlab Pathology, Sandyford Business Park, Dublin.

Mr Maher told Mr Justice Anthony Barr on Wednesday the adjourned hearing of the trial before Judge Kevin Cross was due to re-open on Tuesday next and entailed the attendance of experts from the US and Britain.

“Significant difficulty has arisen on the plaintiff’s side and for that reason my application to the court is for an adjournment of Tuesday’s hearing,” Mr Maher said. He said the reason why the application could not be made to Mr Justice Cross was because he was currently still out of the country.

Experts attending

After hearing of last minute difficulties being faced by counsel for Quest and Medlab, who had only heard of Ms Morrissey’s adjournment application on Wednesday morning, Judge Barr said he would adjourn Ms Morrissey’s application for 24 hours until Thursday morning. He heard on the defence side experts would be attending from Australia.

The Morrisseys, of Kylemore, Schoolhouse Road, Monaleen, Co Limerick, and who have a seven-year-old daughter, claim there was a failure to correctly interpret, report and diagnose Ruth’s smear samples taken in 2009 and 2012. They allege a situation developed where Ms Morrissey’s cancer spread unidentified, unmonitored and untreated until she was diagnosed with cervical cancer in June 2014.

Judge Cross in July last has heard harrowing evidence from Ms Morrissey who told him she was not afraid to die but did not want to, and her husband Paul who told the court of how devastating it was to hear his daughter say “mammy, please don’t die, don’t leave.”

In her evidence, Ms Morrissey said the news that she may only have between one to two years to live was devastating. “You have to dig really deep. You are not going to be the same person. I am not frightened to die, but I don’t want to.”

Mr Maher, instructed by solicitor Cian O’Carroll, told the earlier hearing that aggravated and exemplary damages were also being claimed in the action by the couple.


He said Ms Morrissey’s 2009 smear was tested by the US laboratory Quest diagnostics and her 2012 smear was tested by the Medlab Dublin laboratory. He said the evidence from their side would be that the smears had been incorrectly and negligently reported.

Mr Maher said the results of the reviews of the two tests were carried out and conveyed to Ms Morrissey’s treating gynaecologist in 2016 but she had not been given the review results until May 2018 when she already had a cervical cancer recurrence. She had also been diagnosed with breast cancer earlier this year.

He said experts would say if the cervical smear of 2009 had been correctly reported she would have been referred for a colposcopy which would have disclosed pre-cancerous cells and she may not have developed cervical cancer in 2014 which had recurred this year.

Mr Maher said Ms Morrissey should never have developed cancer in 2014 or have had a recurrence and she was being deprived of seeing her daughter grow up and of an opportunity to live the life she had hoped.