Woman who sued over CervicalCheck settles court action

First case to be resolved since Limerick woman Vicky Phelan’s €2.5m High Court settlement

The case was against the HSE and the US laboratory, Quest Diagnostics Incorporated, which processed, screened and reported on cervical cytology samples provided by Irish women. Photograph: Getty Images

The case was against the HSE and the US laboratory, Quest Diagnostics Incorporated, which processed, screened and reported on cervical cytology samples provided by Irish women. Photograph: Getty Images

 

A woman with terminal cancer who sued over CervicalCheck smears has settled her High Court action on confidential terms.

This is the first case to be resolved since the CervicalCheck smear test controversy erupted and Limerick woman Vicky Phelan settled her court case for €2.5m.

The woman and her husband sued over smear tests carried out in 2009 and 2012 which had come back saying ‘no abnormality detected’.

She claimed she was not told until last May that reviews of the 2009 and 2012 tests showed the presence of pre cancerous cells and the tests had been allegedly reported incorrectly.

The case was initiated early this month when the court heard the woman, who cannot be identified by court order, was in a parlous condition and could “succumb at any moment”.

When the case was called in the High Court on Friday, Ciara McGoldrick BL, instructed by Cian O’Carroll solicitor, told Mr Justice Kevin Cross it had been settled.

The case was against the HSE and the US laboratory, Quest Diagnostics Incorporated, which processed, screened and reported on cervical cytology samples provided by Irish women.

The woman had a cervical smear test in 2009 as part of the national cervical screening programme and it was sent to a laboratory operated by Quest Diagnostics. The report back on the sample indicated no abnormality was detected.

In 2012, she had another smear test under the national programme and the sample reviewed also came back as no abnormality detected.

As a result of a routine smear test four years later in 2016, pre-cancerous type cells were detected and she was referred for a procedure.

In 2017 she was diagnosed as having invasive cervical cancer and underwent chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

It was claimed, subsequent to her diagnosis and unknown to the woman, reviews were carried out by the HSE and Quest of the prior cervical screening of a number of women diagnosed with cervical cancer.

It was claimed the review of the 2009 sample showed the original report in relation to the result was incorrect and in fact the correct result was that high-grade pre-cancerous cells were present.

This result, it was claimed, was not communicated to the woman and a review of the 2012 smear sample also showed the original result was incorrect. The review of the 2012 results was also not given to the woman, it was alleged.

The woman, it was claimed, was told by a doctor in May 2018 the reviews carried out of her 2009 and 2012 smears showed they were reported incorrectly.

That month, the woman was diagnosed as having suffered a progression or recurrence of her cervical cancer and was told it was incurable. Her prognosis was extremely poor and limited to months.

It was claimed there was failure to advise, treat or care for her in a proper, skilful, diligent and careful manner and failure to use reasonable skill, care and judgment when reviewing her smear samples taken in 2009 and 2012.

The woman, it was claimed, was deprived of the opportunity of timely and effective investigation and management of her condition and of the opportunity of treatment at a time when her disease was amenable to curative treatment.

It was further alleged her life expectancy had been significantly reduced.

The alleged failure to advise her of the results of the reviews of her smear test meant her constitutional right to bodily integrity and privacy were infringed, it was claimed.

The claims were denied.

By virtue of the delay in diagnosis, the woman lost the opportunity of cure, her life expectancy has been severely impaired and is in the order of months, it was claimed.

This was the fourth case to be listed in the High Court since the CervicalCheck smear controversy arose. Another case relating to ovarian cancer has also come before the court.