Two more women take legal action over cervical cancer test delays

Third woman begins High Court proceedings against HSE after ovarian cancer diagnosis

Limerick woman Vicky Phelan who last month settled her legal action against a US laboratory for €2.5m. Photograph Nick Bradshaw

Limerick woman Vicky Phelan who last month settled her legal action against a US laboratory for €2.5m. Photograph Nick Bradshaw


Two more women have taken legal action against the Health Service Executive and laboratories over alleged delays relating to identifying abnormalities in their smear tests.

The cases are the first to be listed in the High Court since the CervicalCheck smear controversy arose last month after Limerick woman Vicky Phelan settled her action for €2.5 million.

Mr Justice Kevin Cross on Thursday set hearing dates in July for the two actions and for another action by a woman who has ovarian cancer relating to previous cancer checks.

Mr Justice Cross also made orders, at the request of lawyers for the women, that they not be identified in any way.

In the first cervical smear case, the court heard the prognosis for the woman is “not good” and she has been given a life expectancy of between six and 12 months. She only heard of the alleged misdiagnosis of a 2012 smear test on May 3rd last, the court was told.

In the second cervical smear case, the court heard the woman is currently undergoing chemotherapy and radiotherapy as she suffers from cervical cancer and breast cancer.

Jeremy Maher SC, for the woman, said she had a smear test in 2009 and another in 2012, which came back as negative and her cervical cancer was diagnosed this year. It was their case the cervical cancer should have been detected earlier.

He said a review of the smear tests was carried out in 2014 and 2015 but the woman was not informed of the review, or of the review results which showed the original tests results were incorrect.

Life expectancy

Counsel said the woman has a life expectancy “limited to months” and there would be a real concern if the case was not heard until October.

In the ovarian cancer case, the court heard the woman involved has a family history of ovarian cancer and had checks between 2010 and 2017. The woman had a hysterectomy and other procedures last year when it was discovered she had Stage 3 ovarian cancer which had not been diagnosed previously.

Patrick Treacy SC, for the woman, said his side would contend the diagnosis should have been made earlier and there were alleged indicators in 2013. He asked that the woman’s action be case-managed by the court and an early hearing date be set because of the dire situation.

He said the solicitors involved were cooperating regarding discovery of documents necessary for the case.

Patrick Hanratty SC, for the HSE, said there was no objection to the early application and the case was set down for July.

Fixing all three cases to go on trial for different dates in July, Mr Justice Cross urged the parties to explore alternative means of resolution.

The cancer-screening controversy emerged last month when Ms Phelan settled for €2.5 million her court action against a US laboratory which the CervicalCheck screening service had subcontracted to read smear tests.

Ms Phelan received a false negative result in her 2011 smear test and later discovered she had cancer. It later emerged that test results were misread in 209 cases.

The HSE said this week it had made contact with 203 of the affected women and families and meetings had either been held or arranged to discuss the audit and the response with them.