Woman would probably not have cancer if referred for colposcopy, court told

Ruth Morrissey continuing action against HSE, two US labs over alleged smears misreading

Ruth Morrissey (right) and her husband Paul pictured outside the  High Court, Dublin on July 27th, 2018. Photograph: CourtPix

Ruth Morrissey (right) and her husband Paul pictured outside the High Court, Dublin on July 27th, 2018. Photograph: CourtPix


Ruth Morrissey, who is terminally ill with cervical cancer would, on the balance of probabilities, not have got cancer “and be facing a death sentence” had she been referred for a colposcopy in 2009, the High Court has been told.

Cervical cancer expert Professor John Shepherd said it was correct to say Ms Morrissey, whom the court has been told has a maximum two years to live, should have been referred for a colposcopy in 2009.

He was giving evidence in Ms Morrissey’s continuing action against the HSE and two US laboratories over alleged misreading of two of her cervical smear slides taken in 2009 and 2012 under the CervicalCheck screening programme.

Asked by Jeremy Maher SC, for Ms Morrissey, what would have been the likely findings of a colposcopy in 2009, Prof Shepherd said, as a cancer was detected in Ms Morrissey in 2014, the balance of probabilities was there would have been a pre-cancerous lesion there.

The consultant gynaecological oncologist, who has reviewed Ms Morrissey’s case and scans she had earlier this year, said, had she been referred for a colposcopy, biopsy specimens would have been taken and, on the balance of probabilities, that would have shown some degree of abnormality.

He said there would be another procedure to remove the abnormality.

He thought, on the balance of probabilities, there would be a five per cent chance of a recurrence and a one per cent chance of invasive cancer developing.

Cross examined by Patrick Hanratty SC, for the HSE, Prof Shepherd said Ms Morrissey’s recurring cancer was bigger than anyone realised.

Mr Hanratty said the recurrence of Ms Morrissey’s cervical cancer was in February 2018.

Early detection

When he put to the witness the earliest a tumour could be detected was May 2017, Prof Shepherd said he believed the tumour could be detected in scan imaging in early 2016.

Counsel for Quest Diagnostics Michael Cush SC suggested to Prof Shepherd that pre cancerous cells were not present in 2009, Prof Shepherd answered: “I believe you are wrong.”

Ms Morrissey (37) and her husband, Paul Morrissey, of Kylemore, Schoolhouse Road, Monaleen, Co Limerick have sued the HSE and Quest Diagnostics Ireland Ltd, with offices at Sir John Rogerson’s Quay, Dublin, along with Medlab Pathology Ltd with offices at Sandyford Business Park, Dublin 18.

It is alleged there was failure to correctly report and diagnose, and misinterpretation, of her smear samples taken in 2009 and 2012.

It is claimed a situation developed where Ms Morrissey’s cancer spread unidentified, unmonitored and untreated until she was diagnosed with cervical cancer in June 2014.

It is further claimed a review of the 2009 and 2012 smears took place in 2014 and 2015 with the results sent to Ms Morrissey’s treating gynaecologist in 2016 but Ms Morrissey was not told until May 2018 of those review results which showed her smears were reported incorrectly.

The HSE has admitted it owed a duty of care to Ms Morrissey but not to her husband.

The laboratories deny all claims.

The case continues before Mr Justice Kevin Cross.