Woman with cervical cancer sues for damages at the High Court

Woman was ‘taken into side room’ and told smear slide ‘incorrectly read’, court hears

The woman, who cannot be identified by court order, has sued the HSE and a US laboratory MedLab, with offices at Sandyford Business Park, Dublin.

The woman, who cannot be identified by court order, has sued the HSE and a US laboratory MedLab, with offices at Sandyford Business Park, Dublin.

 

A woman who claims she suffered a delay in a cervical cancer diagnosis and is now terminally ill has sued for damages in the High Court.

The 44-year-old woman, who last year was given two years to live, is also claiming aggravated damages in relation to an alleged failure to inform her of an audit review of her CervicalCheck smear test for five years.

Her counsel Diarmuid O’Donovan said she wants aggravated damages for the “egregious delay in disclosure”. The duty of candour and open disclosure “was wholly trampled upon in this case”, he said.

In evidence on Friday, the woman said nobody had told her until May last year of the audit review in 2013 of her smear test, taken under the CervicalCheck screening programme in 2012.

“I was taken into a side room and told my smear slide had been incorrectly read. The consultant said he found out in 2016,” she said.

“ He said he was sorry but why hold that information without telling me? Nobody told me, I felt angry, I should have been told.”

The woman broke down in tears as she told of the recurrence of her cancer which is inoperable.

“My future is not going to be very long. I don’t plan for anything in the future.”

The woman, who cannot be identified by court order, has sued the HSE and a US laboratory MedLab, with offices at Sandyford Business Park, Dublin.

She had a smear test in March 2012 and the report was borderline abnormal cells. It is claimed the reporting of the smear test was inaccurate and failed to reveal the potential for possible cancer cells. She had a repeat smear test in September 2012 which was reported as more significant activity and she was referred to a consultant, who advised a full hysterectomy.

Palliative chemotherapy

After the operation, she attended for checks but in February 2017 was advised she had recurrent advanced cervical cancer and palliative chemotherapy was recommended. The woman was told the average survival time was 18 to 24 months with treatment.

It is claimed delay in diagnosing her cancer has resulted in progression of the lesion to an invasive carcinoma with adverse features by December 2012. It is further claimed there was failure to arrange appropriate scanning when the woman presented with bleeding in August 2013 and December 2015.

At the outset of the case, Mr Justice Anthony Barr was told by MedLab the laboratory admitted a breach of duty in relation to the reading of the woman’s slide but was contesting the case in relation to causation.

The HSE has accepted there was a breach of duty in relation to the failure to communicate the results of the internal review of her 2012 smear slide.

Opening the case, Mr O’Donovan said the woman’s life has been cut short and she faces a bleak future. It was their case, while the woman was receiving follow up care in the hands of the HSE, there was an opportunity to be aware the tumour was growing and steps could have been taken to treat it with a curative intent.

The woman made complaints such as bleeding in 2013 and in 2015 which, it is claimed should have aroused suspicions of a recurrence of the disease. Counsel said there were “lost opportunities for diagnosis of the tumour”.

Experts on their side would say the recurrent tumour should have been identified sixteen months earlier, around December 2015, when it would have been smaller and probably operable. Instead, it was discovered in late 2016, or before 2017. The case continues on Tuesday.