Woman with terminal cervical cancer seeks urgent mediation of claim

Retired nurse sues HSE and two laboratories in High Court

A woman with terminal cervical cancer who is suing in relation to cervical smear slides taken 10 years ago has, through her lawyers, appealed for mediation talks to begin in her case.

Joan Lucey (73), a widow and retired nurse, has only weeks to live, her counsel told the High Court on Thursday.

She has sued the HSE and two laboratories and her case is set for hearing before the court in two weeks time.

On Thursday, Liam Reidy SC, instructed by Aisling Maher of Cantillons solicitors, said his client is in the last number of weeks of her life and her side has invited the parties to mediation.

Counsel said the laboratories are baulking at engaging in mediation until a third party issue has been resolved.

“It seem to me an absolute outrage the HSE don’t mediate with her legal team directly and deal with the other defendants later,” he said. “It is an absolute outrage in this case. She is on her deathbed.”

Mr Justice Kevin Cross urged the sides to enter into mediation, especially in this case, but said he was not going to force a party to mediation.

The case is due to go ahead on February 26th in the High Court, he noted.

Mrs Lucey, of Cooleen, Dingle, has sued the HSE, Clinical Pathology Laboratories Incorporated (CPL), with headquarters in Austin, Texas, USA and MedLab Pathology Ltd, with registered offices at Sandyford Business Park, Dublin.

She has sued in relation to alleged misreading, misinterpretation or misreporting of her cervical smears taken in February 2011 and August 2011.

She had a cervical smear under the national CervicalCheck screening programme in February 2009 when she was referred for a colposcopy and had a surgical procedure. Follow up smears were negative.

In February 2011, Mrs Lucey had another smear test which, it is claimed, was tested by CPL under the supervision of MedLab and this came back as negative with a recommendation for a repeat smear in six months.

It is also claimed Mrs Lucey was referred to the Scotia Clinic, Tralee, Co Kerry on April 29th, 2011 where a swab came back as negative and she was advised she was HPV negative.

In August 2011, it is claimed she had a repeat smear which was tested by CPL under the supervision of MedLab and it was reported as negative with a repeat smear recommended in a year.

It is claimed, for the next seven years, Mrs Lucey had annual smear tests taken by her GP all of which were reported as negative . She had a further smear test and a HPV test in October 2018 which were reported as negative in May 2019.

After that Mrs Lucey got a letter from CervicalCheck advising she had completed her cervical screening .

In December 2018, Mrs Lucey began to suffer from fatigue and she developed lower back pain in May 2019. She was later admitted to hospital for investigations and an MRI scan showed cervical cancer.

It is claimed, notwithstanding undergoing regular smear tests as advised, that cytological cell changes in Mrs Lucey were allegedly allowed develop and spread unidentified, unmonitored and untreated until she was diagnosed with cervical cancer in July 2019.

It is alleged she was denied the opportunity to receive and benefit from timely curative treatment and her disease was allegedly allowed to develop unhindered.

All the claims are denied.

CPL has also joined, as a third party in the proceedings, a consultant obstetrician, Dr Mary McCaffrey of The Scotia Clinic, Tralee.

CPL has claimed there was failure to assess or investigate Mrs Lucey when she attended the clinic on April 29th 2011. It is claimed that alleged failure resulted in a missed opportunity to diagnose pre invasive disease.

The claims are denied.