CervicalCheck court hearing postponed for Orla Church funeral

Settlement of her case against the HSE and a US lab was due to be announced on Tuesday

A court hearing in the case of Orla Church, one of the women caught up in the CervicalCheck controversy, is to be postponed to allow for her funeral to take place.

A settlement of her case against the HSE and a US testing laboratory was due to have been announced in the High Court on Tuesday, but this will be delayed following her death early on Saturday morning.

Mediation talks were expedited late last week when it became clear that Ms Church's condition was deteriorating rapidly. Her solicitor, Caoimhe Haughey, said a settlement was reached shortly before she died.

At the High Court last Wednesday, Mr Justice Kevin Cross was told mediation talks would take place on Friday between the legal teams representing Ms Church, and the HSE and US laboratory Quest Diagnostics over an alleged misinterpretation of her CervicalCheck smears.


Ms Church, an analyst at the Central Bank, had sued the HSE and Quest. The defendants had denied her claims.

She is survived by her parents and five siblings. In her final years, she campaigned for the introduction of HPV testing and greater public understanding of adenocarcinomas.

She also appeared on RTÉ Television's Liveline Callback programme last month, where she told presenter Joe Duffy: "My clear smear history since my early 20s actively endangered by life because it delayed my diagnosis."

Ms Church had smear tests in September 2011 and September 2014, which detected no abnormality. Routine screening was recommended, the court heard last week.

She was referred to hospital in December 2015 with pelvic pain and was later diagnosed with cervical cancer with a 4cm tumour.

Audit process

It was claimed her two smear tests were reviewed as part of the cancer audit process and by an independent external pathologist. On review in the audit process, no change was made to the reporting of the 2011 smear test, but a change was made to the 2014 smear test result, the court heard.

Following review by the external pathologist in March 2017, both smear test results were changed from the original negative category, it was claimed.

Ms Church alleged the reporting by the Quest laboratory led to a false negative result both in September 2011 and in September 2014 and said there was no intervention in her condition until after May 2016 when she underwent treatment.

Ms Church (55), of Elm Mount Avenue, Beaumont, Dublin, died on Saturday at the Mater Private hospital.

Campaigner Vicky Phelan posted on Twitter at the weekend that she was "very sad" to hear of Ms Church's death. "What many people won't know is that Orla campaigned fiercely for better screening for women, like her, with adenocarcinoma, a more aggressive form of cervical cancer and the HPV vaccine."

Funeral details

Ms Church’s funeral will take place on Tuesday, with the removal of her remains to the Church of Our Lady of Consolation, Donnycarney, arriving at 11.20am for 11.30am requiem mass, followed by burial in Balgriffin Cemetery.

Speaking on Saturday in Dublin, Ms Phelan also criticised the “paternalistic, misogynistic” attitude of many in the medical profession.

The 44-year-old mother-of-two from Limerick was the guest speaker at Femfest, which was organised by the National Women’s Council of Ireland to celebrate 100 years since the first Dáil met.

Ms Phelan said she got “dirty looks” from some doctors because of her campaign work and she believed many of them regarded her as a “bitch”.

“I encourage people to ask questions and [doctors] hate that,” she said. “I’m not claiming to know everything. I’m simply giving people the tools to challenge the profession, because they are not used to be challenged.”

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen is a former heath editor of The Irish Times.