Fintan O’Toole: Women die while outrage after outrage fails to shift attitudes

Women’s health is a matter of faith and the medical and political authorities must be believed without question

In all the justifiable outrage about the  failures of the State’s cervical cancer screening programme brought to light by Vicky Phelan’s legal action, we must not lose sight of the brutal truth that unnecessary death is a systemic question. Photograph: Collins Courts

In all the justifiable outrage about the failures of the State’s cervical cancer screening programme brought to light by Vicky Phelan’s legal action, we must not lose sight of the brutal truth that unnecessary death is a systemic question. Photograph: Collins Courts

Karl Marx famously claimed that everything in history happens twice – the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce. But when it comes to women’s health, Ireland seems to have developed its own variant on this theme: the first time as tragedy and the second time as tragedy – and the fourth and the fifth.

Here, for example, is the opening line of an Irish Times editorial from November 6th, 2008, almost a decade ago: “The publication of another report into cancer misdiagnosis is a further indictment of our health system.” When something bad happens once, it is a scandal; when it happens repeatedly, it is a system.

The Irish Times
Please subscribe or sign in to continue reading.
The Irish Times

How can I keep reading?

You’ve reached an article that is only available to Irish Times subscribers.

Subscribe today and get the full picture for just €1 for the first month.

Subscribe No obligation, cancel any time.