A man who sued following the death of his wife from cervical cancer has settled his High Court case on undisclosed terms.
In court on Thursday, the HSE and a US laboratory said they "deeply regret the pain, suffering and incalculable loss" experienced by Aoife Mitchell Creaven, her husband Padraig and their families.
Ms Mitchell Creaven had to have a termination at 20 weeks of her much-wanted IVF pregnancy after being diagnosed with terminal cervical cancer.
Three years after her death in 2015, her family were told a CervicalCheck audit of her 2011 smear test taken under the national screening programme showed a change in the interpretation from the original result of no abnormalities detected.
Her husband sued for nervous shock over his wife’s death and alleged misinterpretation of her 2011 smear slide.
His case included a claim for the costs of future surrogacy. The court heard he hoped to use the couple’s frozen embryos to fulfil his deceased’s wife wish for a child through surrogacy.
In a statement to the court, the HSE and US laboratory Clinical Pathology Laboratories Incorporated (CPL) said they wished to acknowledge this "is a uniquely tragic case which has had the most devastating consequences for Aoife, her husband Padraig Creaven, and for Aoife's family.We deeply regret the pain, suffering and incalculable loss experienced by Aoife, Padraig and her family."
The HSE said it “reiterates its sincere and unreserved apology to Mr Creaven for the failure by the CervicalCheck programme to communicate with him in a timely and appropriate way, the results of an audit that indicated a change in the interpretation of Aoife’s smear taken on August 8th,2011”.
Noting the settlement Ms Justice Deirdre Murphy extended her sympathy and condolences to Mr Creaven and the Mitchell family and said she was particularly struck by the opening of the case where it was stated Marcella Mitchell had travelled to London with her daughter for the termination.
One can only imagine how horrendous that was for mother and daughter, she said.
‘Small bit of justice’
In a statement outside court, Mr Creaven, from Menlo, Galway, accompanied by his solicitor Cian O’Carroll, said he was happy to have got an acknowledgment from the HSE and CPL.
“I feel that I have some small bit of justice for Aoife,” he said. “I hope going forward that more women won’t have to lose their lives before the system changes.”
He acknowledged his wife’s family for all the help and support “through an unimaginably difficult time”.
When opening the case on Wednesday, his counsel, Jeremy Maher SC said Ms Mitchell Creaven found out in November 2013 she and her husband were to become parents after years of IVF treatment and were “deliriously happy”.
Their joy with the pregnancy after several unsuccessful IVF attempts was short lived as Ms Mitchell Creaven found out she had terminal cervical cancer after discovering a lump on her neck in January 2014, he said.
They had “the most extraordinary and difficult dilemma” and the pregnancy had to be terminated as surgery was not an option and Ms Mitchell Creaven required chemotherapy.
Doctors decided a termination under the legislation then in place could not take place in Ireland and Ms Mitchell Creaven, accompanied by her mother, went to London in mid-March 2014 and the termination took place.
His wife’s death in 2015 had a “devastating effect” on Mr Creaven who was left a 44-year-old widower alone with no child, counsel said.
Mr Creaven was determined to honour the couple's wish to have a child through surrogacy. Their frozen embryos are in a fertility clinic in the Czech Republic and he wants to go to the US for surrogacy, counsel said.
The case also included a claim for aggravated or punitive damages in relation to an alleged comment by a consultant to a member of Aoife’s family during a disclosure meeting in 2018 in relation to the result of an CervicalCheck audit of the 2011 slide. The consultant’s alleged comment “Well, nuns don’t get cervical cancer’’ was “grossly insensitive”, counsel said.
On behalf of himself and Aoife's family, Mr Creaven sued the HSE and three laboratories, Sonic Healthcare (Ireland ) Ltd with offices at Sandyford Business Park, Dublin; MedLab Pathology Ltd also of Sandyford Business Park and US laboratory Clinical Pathology Laboratories Incorporated (CPL) of Austin, Texas. The case was also against Coombe Women and Infants University Hospital, Dublin.
Ms Mitchell Creaven had a cervical smear test on August 8th, 2011, and was advised on August 31st, 2011, no abnormalities were detected.
It was claimed a review of the 2011 cervical smear was carried out in 2014 but the Creaven Mitchells were not told until 2018 the smear slide was reported incorrectly.
It was claimed against the HSE and the laboratories there was failure to report the smear slide of 2011 was abnormal and Ms Mitchell Creaven was deprived of an opportunity of timely and effective investigation and management of her cancer.
It was claimed against the hospital it allegedly concealed or failed to advise the Mitchell Creavens in a timely manner of the result of the review.
All the claims were denied.