CervicalCheck patient Orla Church dies just days after court hearing

Campaign group pays tribute to ‘wonderfully courageous, strong and inspiring person’

One of the women at the centre of the cervical screening controversy has died just days after her case returned to the High Court.

Orla Church (55), of Elm Mount Avenue, Beaumont, Dublin, died on Saturday at Mater Private Hospital.

In a statement on Saturday, the 221+ CervicalCheck Patient Support Group said: “We have just learned with great sadness of the death of Orla Church, a member of the 221+ CervicalCheck Patient Support Group.

“We offer deepest sympathy to her entire family and friends at this very difficult and sad time. Many of us got to meet and know Orla in the past months and she was just such a wonderfully courageous, strong and inspiring person.


“She campaigned tirelessly on behalf of all us affected by the CervicalCheck debacle and we are and will continue to be so grateful to her for this outstanding work.

“All of us in the 221+ CervicalCheck Patient Support Group will be thinking about Orla’s family in the coming days and will be available to assist them in any way we can.”

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.

The judge said he realised there was “extreme urgency” in the case and said: “If it can be done, it can be done.”

The court heard he would be told next week whether the mediation talks had been successful.

False negatives

Ms Church had sued the HSE and Quest, which provided cervical cytopathology laboratories and services to the HSE as part of the CervicalCheck screening programme.

Ms Church had a smear test in September 2011 which was sent to a laboratory operated by Quest and the laboratory report on the sample stated no abnormality was detected and recommended routine screening, the court heard.

In September 2014, Ms Church had another smear test as part of her routine screening and the laboratory report showed no abnormalities and advised normal recall.

Ms Church was referred to hospital in December 2015 with pelvic pain and was later diagnosed with cervical cancer with a tumour of more than 4cm showing up in a scan.

It was claimed her two smear tests were reviewed as part of the cancer audit process case review 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.

In September 2017, she suffered a deterioration in her health and was advised in May 2018 there was a recurrence of her cancer with secondary tumours in her kidneys.

Campaigner Vicky Phelan and other women caught up in the controversy have criticised the Government over delays in setting up an independent statutory tribunal to deal with claims arising from the CervicalCheck controversy.

The tribunal, which is aimed at sparing women the stress of going through the courts and accompanying publicity, is scheduled to be set up in late 2019.

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 nass, followed by burial in Balgriffin Cemetery.