Emma Mhic Mhathúna settles cervical smear case for €7.5 million

HSE and US laboratory Quest Diagnostics to apologise to Kerry mother-of-five in settlement

Emma Mhic Mhathúna and her five children, who sued over the CervicalCheck controversy, have settled their legal action for €7.5 million.

The 37-year-old from Co Kerry, who has terminal cancer, was in the High Court when Mr Justice Kevin Cross was told liability was admitted in the case by the HSE and US laboratory Quest Diagnostics Incorporated.

Letters of apology from the HSE and Quest will be sent to Ms Mhic Mhathúna, the court was told.

Patrick Treacy SC, for Ms Mhic Mhathúna, instructed by solicitor Cian Carroll, said the admission of liability by the HSE related to failing to disclose the findings of cervical cancer.


Quest Diagnostics admitted misreading her two cervical smear slides in 2010 and 2013.

The settlement followed mediation talks that started last Sunday.

The family had sued the HSE, Quest Diagnostics Incorporated and the National Maternity Hospital. The case against the National Maternity Hospital was struck out.

The court heard Ms Mhic Mhathúna wanted all the money paid into court for the benefit of her children.


Mr Treacy said the admission of liability from Quest Diagnostics related to the misreading of slides. He said Ms Mhic Mhathúna had a number of cervical smears in 2010, 2011 and 2013 and the three tests of 2010, 2011 and 2013 were incorrectly reported .

He said the 2011 result was a false negative and the 2010 and 2013 slides were both misread and showed negative.

The effect of the results on the 2010 and 2013 slides was, if read correctly, that Ms Mhic Mhathúna should have got a mandatory colposcopy.

She was under the mistaken belief she did not have cell changes, he said.

Ms Mhic Mhathúna had another smear test on August 19th, 2016, and a result was sent for a colposcopy examination and a biopsy. She was subsequently diagnosed as having invasive cancer cells and underwent treatment between October and December 2016.

In April and May this year, she was advised that she has suffered a recurrence of her cervical cancer and her prognosis is terminal, counsel said.

Counsel said it was not until a request was made during the preparation of the case that information about the 2010 result was discovered.

Ms Mhic Mhathúna, he said, was a dedicated mother and was very happy all issues had been resolved and the matter could be brought to an end. Her sole aim was to protect her children, he added.

‘Astronomical figure’

Ms Mhic Mhathúna told the judge her children were very proud of “the astronomical figure” she had achieved in the settlement but they were very clear nothing would replace their mother.

“I am glad it’s over with, so I can enjoy my time with my children. We take it day by day,” she said.

Ms Mhic Mhathúna, of Baile na nGall, Co Kerry, her daughter Natasha (15) and sons Séamus (11), Mario (10) Oisín (6) and Donnacha (2) had sued the HSE, which operates the CervicalCheck programme, and Quest Diagnostics Incorporated, which processed, screened and reported on cervical cytology samples provided by Irish women. She had also sued the National Maternity Hospital. She claimed all three owed her a duty of care.

She claimed her cancer was allowed to develop and spread unidentified, unmonitored and untreated until she was diagnosed with cervical cancer around September 2016.

It was further claimed the HSE and Quest Diagnostics failed to advise her of the outcome of the reviews of her smear samples.

Struck out

The National Maternity Hospital, it was alleged, failed to advise Ms Mhic Mhathúna of the outcome of the reviews of her samples prior to April 29th, 2018. The case against the hospital was struck out under the terms of settlement.

Her children claimed they now faced the premature and early demise of their mother and the consequent loss of all the nurture, care, opportunities and support which she would otherwise have provided for them until they reached independent adulthood.

She further claimed she was deprived of the opportunity of timely and effective investigation and management of her condition and of the opportunity of treatment at a time when her disease was amenable to curative treatment.

She had been occasioned to suffer unnecessary pain, discomfort and distress, she claimed, and was subjected to extensive medical interventions and ultimately a terminal illness.

Life expectancy

She alleged her life expectancy has been caused to be significantly reduced and the failure to advise her in a timely manner of the results of the smear test reviews infringed her constitutional rights to bodily integrity and privacy.

Approving the settlement, Mr Justice Cross noted Ms Mhic Mhathúna wanted the monies paid into court for the benefit of her children.

Referring to her children, he said: “I know they give you great strength and you give them great strength.”

He said, as a result of bringing the case, Ms Mhic Mhathúna had improved the services for cancer sufferers in Co Kerry and he was sure this was an achievement over and above the monetary compensation. He wished her and her children great happiness and her children success in the future.

Peter Murtagh

Peter Murtagh

Peter Murtagh is a contributor to The Irish Times