Clinicians should apologise to CervicalCheck women, says Scally

Women told about smear test results in ‘disgraceful way’, says doctor who led inquiry

Dr Gabriel Scally says the women deserve direct apologies after they were not informed about issues with their smear tests. File photograph: Crispin Rodwell

Dr Gabriel Scally, who led the inquiry into the controversy over CervicalCheck screening programme, has said that the clinicians involved should apologise directly to the women impacted.

Speaking on Newstalk’s Pat Kenny show, Dr Scally said the women deserved direct apologies after they were not informed about issues with their smear tests and many went on to develop cervical cancer.

“In all of my dealings with the women involved, what they particularly objected to, was that when there was a decision to tell the women about their slides, they were not told properly. They were told, in many ways, in a disgraceful way and dealt with very badly by their clinicians.”

His comments followed the settlement reached this week by Lynsey Bennett, a 32-year-old mother of two who is seriously ill with cervical cancer, of her High Court action over the alleged misinterpretation of her slides.

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Dr Scally added that the women affected by the scandal needed three things to happen before they could be content.

“One is that someone has to tell them the truth and that is a real problem in the CervicalCheck arena because these cases are going through the gladiatorial process of fighting things out in courts.”

Courts would provide a decision, but would not necessarily provide the truth, he said. What the families and the women wanted was the truth.

“Secondly, they would like someone to say sorry and mean it. It has to be a meaningful apology and preferably it has to come from the people who were at fault.”

The third thing was they did not want this to happen to anyone else, he said. If those three issues were dealt with, with grace and compassion, then the issue would be resolved.

Regret

On Thursday, chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan said he had “a huge amount of regret” over the harm done to women in the CervicalCheck controversy.

He specified the harm involved as being the failure to disclose to the women the findings of retrospective clinical audits of their cases carried out by the screening programme.

In spring 2018, major controversy erupted when it emerged that hundreds of women had not been told the outcome of a review of their slides carried out by CervicalCheck.

This emerged following a court settlement in a case taken by Vicky Phelan over the reading of her smears. A succession of court cases taken by seriously ill women has followed since, despite efforts to set up a tribunal where they would be heard in private.