Woman with breast and cervical cancer begins action over smear tests

Counsel for Ruth Morrissey (37) to give evidence that two tests were ‘negligently reported’

Paul and Ruth Morrissey, of Kylemore, Schoolhouse Road, Monaleen, Co Limerick, are  pictured at the Four Courts on Wednesday. Photograph: Collins Courts.

Paul and Ruth Morrissey, of Kylemore, Schoolhouse Road, Monaleen, Co Limerick, are pictured at the Four Courts on Wednesday. Photograph: Collins Courts.


A woman with breast and cervical cancer has begun her High Court action over alleged misinterpretation of two cervical smear tests as part of the CervicalCheck screening programme.

Liability is seriously at issue in the case, the court previously heard.

The court was told, after Mr Justice Kevin Cross ruled the case could proceed, that Ruth Morrissey (37) and her husband Paul Morrissey, of Kylemore, Schoolhouse Road, Monaleen, Co Limerick wished the order relating to their not being named be lifted.

The two laboratories being sued had sought an adjournment of the case to October or November following news that Ms Morrissey had a CT scan this week, there is an improvement in her symptoms and she may now be a candidate for radical radiotherapy treatment which could improve her prognosis.

Jeremy Maher SC, for Ms Morrissey, said aggravated and exemplary damages were being claimed in the action by the couple, who have a seven-year-old daughter.He said evidence from their side would be that the smears were “negligently reported”.

Ms Morrissey and her husband have sued the HSE, Quest Diagnostics Ireland Ltd of Sir John Rogerson’s Quay, Dublin; and Medlab Pathology Ltd of Sandyford Business Park, Dublin 18.

Two smear tests

On August 18th, 2009, Ms Morrissey had a cervical smear test as part of the national screening programme. The cervical sample was sent to a Quest laboratory and came back negative with a recommendation for a routine recall.

On August 8th, 2012, she had another smear test under the national screening programme. That test was sent to a Medlab laboratory and Ms Morrissey was told in a letter from the HSE in a month later that no abnormalities had been detected.

Ms Morrissey went to her GP in May 2014 complaining of bleeding and was referred for an urgent colposcopy. A month later she was diagnosed as having invasive squamous carcinoma of the cervix and had different surgical procedures after that.

It is claimed, unknown to Ms Morrissey, reviews were carried out of the prior cervical screenings in 2014 and 2015, and the results were found to be incorrect. However, this information was not communicated to her.

On June 16th, 2016, it is claimed Ms Morrissey’s treating consultant was advised as to the outcome of the reviews.

In February of this year she underwent tests which confirmed a recurrence of cervical cancer and also revealed a lesion in her left breast. In March, she was diagnosed with cancer in her left breast.

She was advised on May 3rd by her consultant that the reviews carried out of her 2009 and 2012 smears showed the smears were reported incorrectly. It is claimed that there was failure to correctly report and diagnose and alleged misinterpretation of her smear samples.