Judge refuses bid by US lab to have markings from cervical smear slides removed

Ruling concerns seven actions over CervicalCheck screening programme

Mr Justice Cross said he did not think it was necessary to remove the markings to conduct a blind review.

Mr Justice Cross said he did not think it was necessary to remove the markings to conduct a blind review.

 

A High Court judge on Tuesday refused an application by a US laboratory to allow the removal of original markings made by technicians who screened cervical smear slides.

The slides are at the centre of seven actions over smears taken under the CervicalCheck screening programme and the removal of the original markings was sought to allow experts carry out a “blind”, rather than a “hindsight”, review of them.

On Tuesday, Mr Justice Kevin Cross said Clinical Pathology Laboratories (CPL) had not established special circumstances to depart from a protocol set during the Ruth Morrissey case regarding cervical smear slides.

The protocol states existing markings on a slide which were left there by the screener should not be removed without prior court approval.

CPL, which has its headquarters in Austin, Texas, is understood to be considering appealing the High Court decision.

Eugene Gleeson SC, for CPL, told the High Court the dates and the number of the slides where the markings were required to be removed had been handed into the court. Counsel said his side wanted to go back to the original screening conditions and to “eliminate hindsight bias”.

CPL contends removal of the markings would allow for a “blind review” of slides by experts.

Counsel said in another case there was a consent order to allow for the markings to be removed from the slides.

The experts for the plaintiffs in the seven cases concerned could photograph the slides with the markings before removal, he said.

Patrick Treacy SC, instructed by solicitor Cian O’Carroll, for the plaintiffs in all seven actions said the laboratory wanted to remove the markings the screener had put on and CPL was trying to reconstruct what was agreed in the protocol.

It was “mildly irritating“ to have worked out a protocol for such cases and for CPL to be. two years later “trying to rewrite the book.’

Counsel said the laboratory would have to show special circumstances to justify removing original evidence from the slides.

CPL “is trying to create a new and novel practice”.

Refusing the CPL application in all seven cases, Mr Justice Cross said he did not think it was necessary to remove the markings to conduct a blind review.