Husband says lives were turned upside down by his wife’s cancer diagnosis

High Court hears couple are opposed to getting involved in mediation talks while HSE continued to deny primary liability

Mr Justice Kevin Cross said he was reluctant to direct mediation take place when there was opposition to it but he urged all sides to have discussions.

Mr Justice Kevin Cross said he was reluctant to direct mediation take place when there was opposition to it but he urged all sides to have discussions.

 

A man who with his now terminally ill wife is suing over alleged misinterpretation of her CervicalCheck smear test nine years ago has told the High Court their lives have been turned upside down since her cancer diagnosis.

He said his wife told him of the cancer diagnosis during a phone call a few days before Christmas 2015.

“I was in shock and I broke down. I will never forget that phonecall,” he said.

“That Christmas was a difficult time for all of us. We knew there was something big coming down the line.”

The recurrence of his wife’s cancer two years later was “like being back in another big hole again.”

When they got news last year the cancer was inoperable, “it was like being hit by a bus”, he said.

The couple have sued the HSE and two companies which provided medical diagnostic services in the State - Sonic Healthcare (Ireland) Ltd and Medlab Pathology Ltd, both with offices at Sandyford Business Park, Dublin.

They have also sued US laboratory Clinical Pathology Laboratories Incorporated of Austin, Texas, which tested her smear slide in 2010 and reported it as negative.

It is claimed all the defendants owed the woman a duty of care in the provision of the cervical screening programme and in the provision of all services associated with it.

The woman, a mother of two in her forties, has Stage 4 cancer and has had palliative chemotherapy. The court has been told she had been given a prognosis of between 12 to 22 months.

She cannot be identified by order of the court.

On Tuesday, Eoin McCullough SC, for the laboratories, applied to the court for a direction that mediation take place this week and Patrick Hanratty SC, for the HSE, supported the application.

‘Fool’s errand’

Patrick Treacy SC, for the couple, said they are opposed to getting involved in mediation talks while the HSE continued to deny primary liability in the case.

The HSE’s denial was “incomprehensible” to his clients and it would be “a fool’s errand” to spend days in mediation when the HSE was saying it has no primary liability, he said.

He said the woman’s prognosis is extremely serious and it would be inhumane to delay her case.

Mediation had come onto the landscape on Monday and the woman’s lawyers, who were experienced in this type of mediation, had a certain “jaundiced view” especially in CervicalCheck cases where the HSE do not accept primary liability.

Mr Treacy said he could not see how mediation will achieve anything that negotiation between the legal teams would not. The latter would be much quicker and could go on in the background as the case continued, he added.

Mr Justice Kevin Cross said he was reluctant to direct mediation take place when there was opposition to it but he urged all sides to have discussions.

“I am not going to force you into something you don’t want to do,” he said.

The woman underwent a cervical smear test in September 2010 as part of the national cervical screening programme. Her sample was sent for review and a laboratory report showed the sample was satisfactory for assessment and there was no evidence of the presence of abnormal tissue.

It is claimed there was a failure to correctly report and diagnose the woman’s smear slide taken in 2010 and that her cancer was allowed to develop and spread unidentified, unmonitored and untreated until she was diagnosed with cervical cancer in December 2015. The claims are denied.

The case continues on Wednesday.