Cytopathologist apologises for smear test misinterpretation to woman who had hysterectomy

Cytopathologist apologises for smear test misinterpretation to woman who had hysterectomy
File photo.

A cytopathologist has apologised in the High Court to a 39-year-old woman whose cervical smear test was incorrectly reported as negative but who later got cancer and had to have a hysterectomy.

The apology was read to the court on the second day of the woman’s action against the HSE, Medlab Pathology and UK cytopathologist Dr Colin Clelland.

In the apology read by Emily Egan SC, Dr Clelland conveyed his “sincere and heartfelt apologies” in relation “to an incorrect interpretation” of the woman’s 2013 smear that “caused a delay in the detection of your cancer and for the resulting trauma that you have suffered.”

It continued: “I recognise also your fertility has been adversely affected along with the physical effects of the surgery and the emotional consequences of a cancer diagnosis.”

Dr Clelland also offered deepest sympathy to the woman and wished her well for the future.

At the opening of the case, Mr Justice Kevin Cross was told by the woman’s counsel, Dr John O’Mahony SC, when the woman had a cervical smear test in 2013 there should have been “flashing red lights” but the result came back negative.

Three years later she was diagnosed with cancer and had to have a hysterectomy

Had it not been for the misreporting of the April 2013 smear, she has claimed she would not have had a hysterectomy and would have conserved her fertility.

”Her intention was to have a family, she is family focused,” Dr O’Mahony told the court.

It was her desire to have children.

"She looked forward to being a mother, she is saddened by this."

Liability was conceded in the case and it is before the court for assessment of damages only.

Counsel said if there had been an appropriate reading of the 2013 smear she would have avoided “all of the nightmare” and retained her fertility. “She would not have lost out as badly as she did,” Dr O’Mahony added.

The cancer, Counsel said, has not returned and the woman is currently clear of it.

Counsel said the woman does not currently have cancer but she is “”not out of the woods” and has reviews every three months. He said the woman has also been left with a chronic condition which causes swelling in her body.

The woman who cannot be identified has sued the HSE and Medlab Pathology Ltd and cytopathologist, Dr Colin Clelland of Haddington, Oxford, England, who examined the woman's smear slide taken on April 22, 2013 under the Cervical Check screening programme.

She claimed the smear test was falsely reported as being negative with a recommendation she be discharged to routine recall for a further smear in three to five years.

She says she was required to have more radical surgery and treatment and her health has been seriously adversely affected .

Had her 2013 smear been reported correctly, she would have been referred for a colposcopic assessment which is what happened three years later when she had a smear test in 2016 . A high-grade squamous lesion was found.

The case before Mr Justice Kevin Cross continues next week.

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