Lawyers query if they got woman’s correct cervical smear slide for testing

It emerged that form submitted with 2012 slide related to another woman, court told

The HSE has admitted it owed a duty of care to Ruth  Morrissey but not to her husband, Paul Morrissey. Photograph: Collins Courts

The HSE has admitted it owed a duty of care to Ruth Morrissey but not to her husband, Paul Morrissey. Photograph: Collins Courts


Lawyers for Ruth Morrissey, who is suing over alleged misreading of her cervical smears, have raised concerns in the High Court over whether a US laboratory, Medlab, gave them the correct smear slide for testing by her experts.

The concerns arose after it emerged at the weekend that a form submitted with the 2012 slide for testing contained details relating to another woman but is allegedly signed by Ms Morrissey.

Ms Morrissey, who is seriously ill with cervical cancer, has sued the HSE, Medlab and another laboratory over alleged misreading of two cervical smears taken under the CervicalCheck screening programme in 2009 and 2012.

Mr Justice Kevin Cross was told on Tuesday Ms Morrissey’s solicitor Cian O’Carroll has now written to MedLab outlining his concerns about the 2012 slide and seeking an explanation.

Patrick Treacy SC, for Ms Morrissey, said his side were not suggesting any impropriety but are concerned if her experts had ever examined the correct slide. Jeremy Maher SC, also for Ms Morrissey, said the 2012 MedLab slide appeared to have a cytology form which included a different address and date of birth to Ruth Morrissey and details of a different, older woman, whom the court called Woman B.

The Morrissey side required a full explanation as to why this form was included and why Ms Morrissey’s signature was on it, he said. Ms Morrissey, counsel said, will say she did not sign that form.

A cervical screening expert, Dr Michael McKenna, has previously given evidence that cervical cancer was, “on the balance of probabilities”, there in 2012 when a smear slide tested by MedLab was reported as negative.

Eoin McCullough SC, for MedLab, told the court that, in July 2018, when the Ruth Morrissey slide was sent out, time was a premium and there was no requisition form and a mock up form was created. Counsel said the correct slide was analysed. He said he will have to take further instruction on the question of Ms Morrissey’s signature.

Mr Treacy said Woman B went for a smear test in 2011, 11 months before Ruth Morrissey, and the fundamental question was “if any of us tested the right slide in the case.”

It could also have been the wrong slide at the time of the audit of various slides, he said. At one stage, Mr Justice Kevin Cross commented it was “getting stranger and stranger.”

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

It is claimed there was failure to correctly report and diagnose and alleged misinterpretation of her smear samples taken in 2009 and 2012 and a situation developed where her 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 she was not told until May 2018 of those review results which showed her smears were reported incorrectly.

The Morrisseys claim, had Ms Morrissey had been told the results of the smear test audits in late 2014 or early 2015, she would have insisted on an MRI and other scans. 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 on Wednesday.