The Government is being urged to give “absolute clarity” about the redress scheme it is offering women affected by the CervicalCheck controversy to avoid the stress of court battles.
The call follows reports that the legal team for US laboratory Quest Diagnostics in Texas had sought to have Emma Mhic Mhathúna's children interviewed by a psychologist to assess the impact of her death on them.
Ms Mhic Mhathúna has terminal cervical cancer and is one of 209 women affected by the controversy over alleged failings of the screening programme.
The Health Service Executive has disclosed that 29 cases, 21 of them in CervicalCheck, and eight from BreastCheck, are under investigation in relation to alleged failings of the cancer screening programmes.
One CervicalCheck case has gone to court and four are at a stage where negotiations are under way to conclude the cases.
It is understood that the current court proceedings are not an alternative to mediation but a necessary precursor as part of case management.
Ms Mhic Mhathúna’s case came before the High Court on Thursday for case management and she and her children are now seeking exemplary and aggravated damages.
The State Claims Agency (SCA), which has responsibility for the CervicalCheck cases, has written to Quest Laboratories’ legal team that it does not approve of the request for psychological evaluation.
The agency said it was committed to reaching resolution of Ms Mhic Mhathúna’s case in a sensitive manner, “working co-operatively with the co-defendant laboratories, utilising mediation as an alternative to a formal court hearing, and placing a high priority on treating Ms Mhic Mhathúna and her family with dignity and compassion”.
The SCA said it had told the court that it would do everything in its power to bring about the resolution of this case by mediation and “is working expeditiously towards that end”.
Minister for Health Simon Harris receives a daily update on the roll-out of support packages and to date 148 new medical cards have been approved. A further 97 have been upgraded and other supports including counselling and assistance with costs have been arranged.
As of Friday, public health nurses had contacted 195 women affected and 112 meetings had been held to discuss people’s needs.
Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said the Government had to give absolute clarity about what they meant when they announced a full programme of supports for women and their families.
“Very clear commitments were given in the Dáil that there would be no need for recourse to the courts and that a redress scheme would be introduced so that the women and their families could avoid the stress of court proceedings.”
He said the idea of children having to be psychologically assessed “would be a shock development and completely unnecessary. We do need clarity because there was the clear sense that people wouldn’t end up in court.”