Woman with terminal ovarian cancer settles case against HSE for €2m

Woman had family history of ovarian cancer but claimed she was not referred for genetic testing

A woman with terminal ovarian cancer who sued over an alleged failure to take adequate measures to protect her from the risk of developing the disease has secured a €2 million settlement of her High Court action against the HSE.

The settlement is without admission of liability.

The woman, who by court order cannot be named, had a family history of ovarian cancer but claimed she was not referred for genetic testing.

The "real tragedy" was, when genetically tested in September last year months after developing the ovarian cancer, she was found to be a "carrier all the time", Patrick Treacy SC, for thee woman, said.


The settlement of the action by the woman and her family was achieved after mediation talks and was made without an admission of liability.

Mr Justice Paul Butler today approved the settlement of the case, which had been listed for trial in the High Court today as an urgent case for hearing.

Mr Treacy, instructed by Cian Carroll solicitor, also said the HSE intends to send a "letter of regret" to the woman.

Her case came to light during the CervicalCheck controversy and after Limerick woman Vicky Phelan settled her case over alleged delays for €2.5 million.

Counsel said the woman’s concern is that her case will result in improving genetic screening services. The woman, her husband and family had sued the HSE.

It was claimed she had a family history of ovarian cancer and from August 2010 attended at regular intervals at University Hospital, Limerick and at Mid Western Hospital, Nenagh for screening in relation to her risk of developing ovarian cancer. In 2015 she underwent a coloscopy and was diagnosed with mild changes in the cervix area.

In February 2017, she was found to have ovarian tumours and pathology showed high grade 3 serious cancer of both ovaries and she had to have a hysterectomy.

Following a genetic analysis in September 2017, she was found to have a pathogenic mutation in the BRCA1 gene, which means she was at risk of ovarian cancer.

It was claimed there was a situation where her cancer was allowed to develop and spread unidentified, unmonitored and untreated until she was diagnosed with Stage 3c high grade serious ovarian cancer in February 2017.

It was further claimed there was failure to refer her for genetic testing or genetic advice and she was allegedly caused to suffer unnecessary pain, discomfort, distress and subjected to extensive surgical and medical interventions and ultimately a terminal illness.

She further alleged her life expectancy was caused to be significantly reduced and stands at about 24 months.

All claims were denied by the HSE.

In court today, Mr Treacy said it was a very tragic case where the woman had a lifetime risk of over 60 per cent developing ovarian cancer.

Their case was, from August 2010, she should have been referred for genetic counselling and testing which, his side claimed, would have identified the gene. If she had been assessed as having the gene, she could have had a procedure which would have prevented her from developing ovarian cancer, it was claimed.

He said she had a strong family background in ovarian cancer and her mother died aged in her forties and an aunt and niece also died of the disease.

His side would say she was not properly assessed in August 2010 when she presented at the Limerick hospital and had other cancer changes in her body from 2013.

His side contended, between June 2013 and 2015, there were pre-cancerous cells in her body and their expert would have said she should have been referred for genetic counselling and testing by at least 2013, counsel said.

Mary Carolan

Mary Carolan

Mary Carolan is the Legal Affairs Correspondent of the Irish Times