Government to pay full award to Ruth Morrissey despite appeal

Varadkar says appeal against High Court judgment is to obtain clarity

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar  indicated the appeal  was to obtain clarity on the legal position after the judgment by Mr Justice Kevin Cross caused widespread alarm among doctors.  Photograph: Fran Veale

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar indicated the appeal was to obtain clarity on the legal position after the judgment by Mr Justice Kevin Cross caused widespread alarm among doctors. Photograph: Fran Veale

 

The Government has promised to guarantee the full amount of €2.1 million compensation award made to Ruth Morrissey, the terminally ill woman who took legal action at the High Court after abnormalities were undetected in routine smear tests.

The State lodged an appeal against the High Court judgment this week but in the Dáil on Tuesday, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar indicated this was to obtain clarity on the legal position after the judgment by Mr Justice Kevin Cross caused widespread alarm among doctors.

In his judgment, Mr Justice Cross found that the screening programme must have “absolute confidence” before giving a test the all-clear. Doctors have warned that the judgment put the future of screening programmes in doubt.

Mr Varadkar said they could not ignore doctors “saying it could undermine our screening programmes and could lead to more false positives and unnecessary biopsies, perhaps even unnecessary hysterectomies and mastectomies”.

Last night, the chief State solicitor wrote to Ms Morrissey’s legal representatives giving her an assurance that the full amount of her award of damages in the High Court would be protected, irrespective of the outcome of the appeal.

The High Court awarded Ms Morrissey €2.1 million in damages, of which €710,000 has already been paid.

The award was principally against the screening laboratories found to have misread her smear tests.

Full amount

However, the State’s move now means that even if she loses the appeal, Ms Morrissey will receive the full amount of damages from public funds, though the balance of €1.4 million will not be paid until the appeal has concluded.

Last night, Ms Morrissey’s solicitor, Cian O’Carroll, confirmed the assurance from the State had been received, and said he had been seeking payment of the damages for weeks, as his client’s health had deteriorated.

“We’re pleased it’s come at last,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Cabinet yesterday approved payments of €20,000 each for 160 women affected by the CervicalCheck controversy who were not told that their smear tests had been audited after they developed cancer.

The Department of Health has written to the affected women telling them to expect payment of the compensation shortly.

The Cabinet also approved legislation to establish a tribunal for women affected by the controversy.

The tribunal, which will be chaired by Ms Justice Mary Irvine, will be optional. Women, or their next of kin, can still choose to go to court.