Judge says women may die before cancer diagnosis cases heard

Mr Justice Kevin Cross says more judges needed in wake of CervicalCheck controversy

 Paul and Ruth Morrissey outside  the Four Courts in July for the start  of their High Court action. Photograph: Collins Courts

Paul and Ruth Morrissey outside the Four Courts in July for the start of their High Court action. Photograph: Collins Courts

 

A High Court judge has warned that people who have sued over alleged delays in cancer diagnosis and alleged misdiagnosis may die before their cases are heard.

Calling for more judges to be appointed to the High Court to deal with the personal injuries list which has been swamped with complex cases including those related to the CervicalCheck controversy, Mr Justice Kevin Cross said without more judges on the bench, he did not know how they could get all the cases heard.

He said that “great injustices will be caused” particularly for those “in extremis.”

The judge made the comments when hearing an application to have the case of a woman who is suing in relation to CervicalCheck case managed as the woman’s health is failing.

“It is sad to think that people will have passed away before their cases are dealt with,” he said.

Mr Justice Cross heads up the personal injuries section of the High Court and usually specially fixes cases on certain dates so they have a chance of getting on before a judge once the cases are called.

Higher authorities

Because the specially-fixed dates for next year are filling up, the judge has said he has discussed the matter with “higher authorities.”

He said it was not going to be possible to deal with the number of cases coming in to the system in relation to the CervicalCheck contoversy, breast cancer cases and cases in relation to the swine flu vaccine.

Mr Justice Cross said the cases including Cervical Check are each going to take six weeks and it seemed to him the cases, which are complex, are going to run their course.

The judge stressed there are only three other judges available to him on the personal injuries list and without more being appointed,he did not know how all the cases will get on.

Last July, in an update to TDs, the Dáil Public Accounts Committee was told there were 35 active legal cases, three cases had been settled and there were at that stage two further potential cases.

In court on Thursday, Mr Justice Cross was told the legal team for Ruth Morrissey, whose case was adjourned after hearing her evidence and that of her husband Paul last July are now are seeking more discovery from the defendant laboratories in the action.

Misinterpretation

Ms Morrissey, a 37-year old mother who has cancer, is suing over the alleged alleged misinterpretation of her cervical smears taken under the CervicalCheck screening programme in 2009 and 2012.

The Morrisseys, of Kylemore, Schoolhouse Road, Monaleen, Co Limerick have sued the HSE and the US laboratory Quest Diagnostics Ireland Ltd with offices at Sir John Rogerson’s Quay, Dublin along with Medlab Pathology Ltd with offices at Sandyford Business Park, Dublin 18.

It is claimed there was an alleged failure to correctly report and diagnose and there was an alleged misinterpretation of her smear samples taken in 2009 and 2012.

A situation it is claimed allegedly developed where Ms Morrissey’s cancer spread unidentified, unmonitored and untreated until she was diagnosed with cervical cancer in June 2014.

It is further claimed a review of the 2009 and 2012 smears took place in 2014 and 2015 with the results sent to Ms Morrissey’s treating gynaecologist in 2016, but she was not told until May this year of those review results which showed her smears were reported incorrectly.

The HSE the court has heard admitted it owed a duty of care to Ms Morrissey but not to her husband and it admits the results of her smear reviews should have been made known to Ms Morrissey. The laboratories deny all claims.

Ms Morrissey suffered a recurrence of her cervical cancer this year and was also diagnosed with breast cancer.

On Thursday, Ms Morrissey’s counsel Jeremy Maher SC asked that the court hear a motion for discovery of certain matters including relating to standard operating procedures.

The judge fixed next week to hear the motion and said the Morrissey case will resume full hearings at the end of January.