Man whose wife died of cervical cancer tells of anger as he settles case

Court told that ongoing case was source of enormous distress to woman as she died

Michelle Silke Curtis with her husband Cathal Curtis.

Michelle Silke Curtis with her husband Cathal Curtis.

 

A man whose wife died from cervical cancer over five years ago has told a judge how CervicalCheck visited her in hospital and asked her not to go public about her case.

“They said she was the only one, then Vicky Phelan happened,” Cathal Curtis told Mr Justice Paul Coffey on Tuesday.

Mr Curtis was speaking as he settled the action his wife Michelle Silke Curtis started over the alleged misinterpretation of four of her smear slides. A nurse and mother-of-two, Ms Silke Curtis was 45 years of age when she died in 2016 a year after being diagnosed with Stage 4 cervical cancer.

The settlement against the HSE, two laboratories and a GP is without admission of liability.

The Curtis family’s counsel, Oonah McCrann SC with Sara Antoniotti BL instructed by solicitor Valerie Corcoran, told the court the case involved a “catalogue of tragic errors”.

Counsel said it was a source of enormous distress to Ms Silke Curtis that her case was not finalised before her death.

Mr Curtis told the judge he feels “quite insulted” by the behaviour of the defendants. He said it has taken more than five years to reach this point. He said Ms Silke Curtis’s father died 10 weeks after her, with the shock of the diagnosis “it broke his heart”.

Mr Curtis said he was infuriated it had taken four years to be told that a US laboratory had tested some of his wife’s smear tests.

He said he struggles as a lone parent to his daughters Annie and Sarah.

Mr Curtis of Oranmore, Co Galway had sued the HSE, Medlab Pathology Ltd with offices at Sandyford Business Park, Dublin; US laboratory Clinical Pathology Laboratories Inc with offices at Austin, Texas and GP Saber Elsafty of Cappagh Road Surgery, Cappagh Road, Galway.

The case related to four cervical smear tests taken between 2010 and 2012 which were allegedly misinterpreted and misreported.

It was claimed Ms Silke Curtis had a smear test in September 2007 and unbeknown to her the sample was reported as borderline with advice to refer further. It was claimed Dr Elsafty failed to inform Ms Silke Curtis of the result or to advise her and follow up on the report.

Three years later, in November 2010, Ms Silke Curtis had a smear test under the National Cervical Screening Programme and it was sent to the MedLab laboratory for testing.

Atypical squamous cells were reported to be present with a follow-up smear advised for six months later.

In May 2011, Ms Silke Curtis had a repeat smear which was reported by MedLab as negative but in view of the previous abnormal result, she was advised to have another test in six months. In November 2011 she had another repeat smear test which was also reported negative by MedLab and a repeat smear was recommended for six months later.

In their defence delivered in 2019, three years after Ms Silke Curtis death, the HSE and Medlab advised that the samples taken in November 2010, May 2011 and November 2011 were interpreted and reported on by the American laboratory Clinical Pathology Laboratories (CPL) which is based in Texas.

All the claims were denied by all defendants.

In September 2012, Ms Silke Curtis had a further repeat cervical smear test which also came back as negative and she was told by letter she would be advised of her next routine smear test in three to five years. Three years later, in June 2015, she was diagnosed with a cervical tumour.