Ireland's government has apparently broken their pledge that no more women would need to go to court over their right of compensation over incorrect cancer smear test results.
The government is once again involved in controversy over incorrect cancer smear test results – this time over an apparent broken pledge that no more women and their families would have to go to court to establish their right to compensation.
The latest flare-up happens as 37-year-old Ruth Morrissey from Limerick, who has been given less than a year to live, spent two days giving evidence in her court hearing last week. Her hearing was adjourned on Tuesday to September 18.
She is the fourth woman affected by the Health Service Executive’s (HSE) CervicalCheck scandal who has been forced into court.
This happened despite Taoiseach Leo Varadkar pledging on May 11 that the state would take over the women’s cases, seek settlements by mediation and pursue test laboratories for damages so the women would not have to go to trial.
But last week Morrissey, who has cervical and breast cancer, was forced to deliver personal testimony in court about the pain she is suffering and about the impact of her terminal illness in relation to her seven-year-old daughter.
She and her husband Paul are suing two laboratories, Quest Diagnostics and Medlab Pathology, for her misreported smear tests in 2009 and 2012, and the HSE for failing for two years to tell her about an audit revealing the incorrect tests.
Following public criticism that Morrissey was forced into court, Varadkar admitted on Monday that he should have been clearer when he promised that no woman caught up in the CervicalCheck cancer screening scandal would have to go to court.
He denied a Labour Party claim that he had “gone into hiding” on the issue and emphasized that as there was an ongoing court action he was limited in what he could say publicly for fear of prejudicing the outcome of the case.
But he repeated, “Certainly what the government wants is that all cases are settled by mediation so that women can avoid a court trial.”
Varadkar said he spoke to Attorney General Seamus Woulfe and asked him to speak to the State Claims Agency to ask that mediation be resumed in Morrissey’s case.
The government is now carrying out a new review of CervicalCheck cases. The Irish Times sources said the attitude of the laboratories had caused surprise in recent weeks, and that a fresh approach may be needed in cases where the firms do not admit liability.
It is understood that laboratories are seeking to fight cases where they do not believe there has been negligence on behalf of their staff in dealing with cervical screening.
Meanwhile, Vicky Phelan, the woman who revealed the cervical cancer controversy in April, said she was seeking an urgent meeting with Varadkar this week. She told RTE, “I am shocked that Ruth is in the position where she is now.
“I want the taoiseach to step up and do something to protect these women. It is inhumane to watch.”
Phelan, said to have just months to live although she is hoping for longer under a new drug she has been prescribed, pembrolizumab, settled her legal action for €2.5 million over a 2011 false negative smear test.
The test smear scandal, the worst crisis in the history of the HSE, was exposed earlier this year in Phelan’s court action.
Since her case came to light it has emerged that 18 women died from cancer after their CervicalCheck screening tests were misread. Phelan said more than 40 cases are due to come to court unless Varadkar honors his pledge that they will be settled by mediation.