Ruth Morrissey case: Laboratory withdraws screeners of 2012 smear slide as witnesses

Ruth Morrissey case: Laboratory withdraws screeners of 2012 smear slide as witnesses
Ruth Morrissey

Two people who screened the now terminally ill Ruth Morrissey’s smear test for the MedLab laboratory in 2012 which came back as negative have been withdrawn from the witness list in the long-running case.

Mr Justice Kevin Cross said MedLab laboratory, which has withdrawn the two names from its witness list, was entitled not to call witnesses.

The screeners who tested the 2012 Ruth Morrissey slide are based at the MedLab laboratory in Sandyford, Dublin.

It was Day 33 in the long-running case brought by the 37-year-old mother of one who has cervical cancer and has at most two years to live. The Limerick woman has sued the HSE and two US laboratories - Quest Diagnostics and Med Lab - over the alleged misreading of her smear tests taken under the CervicalCheck screening programme in 2009 and 2012.

Ruth Morrissey’s counsel Patrick Treacy said the screeners “are not turning up” and instead he said cytotechnologists and experts from the “Wisconsin hot bed of blind reviews” are being brought in to tell the judge who has to decide the case, to put his faith in blind reviews.

“What is happening here, there is a pattern. In relation to Quest Diagnostics, the whereabouts of one screener is not known and the other screener is in Chicago and we are never going to hear from her. We are told now we are not going to hear from the screeners in Sandyford, Dublin for MedLab.”

He said MedLab was now trying to bring in two other screeners who reviewed the slides in the Wisconsin laboratory.

Conor Halpin SC for MedLab pointed out it would be incorrect to say two screeners from Wisconsin were being called instead of those withdrawn from the High Court witness list.

Mr Justice Cross ruled the two cytotechnologists who reviewed the Morrissey slide in Wisconsin can give evidence by video link next week.

At one stage yesterday Mr Treacy pointed out the Ruth Morrissey case is a test case which is being “swamped by Americans, hindsight bias and blind reviews”.

Ruth Morrissey with her husband Paul.
Ruth Morrissey with her husband Paul.

In evidence, Tim Feit, Director of Dane County Cytology Centre in Wisconsin in the US, earlier said his centre had checked nine random slides including the Ruth Morrissey 2009 slide in a blind test review.

Giving evidence on behalf of Quest Diagnostics, he said he examined the Morrissey slide and he believed it was negative.

He told the court it was “entirely reasonable “ that it was found to be negative.

In her action, Ms Morrissey and her husband Paul Morrissey, of Monaleen, Co Limerick have sued the HSE and two US laboratories, Quest Diagnostics Ireland Ltd with offices at Sir John Rogerson’s Quay, Dublin along with Medlab Pathology Ltd with offices at Sandyford Business Park, Dublin 18.

It is claimed there was an alleged failure to correctly report and diagnose and misinterpretation of her smear samples taken in 2009 and 2012 and her cancer spread unidentified, unmonitored and untreated until she was diagnosed with cervical cancer in June 2014.

It is further claimed a review of the 2009 and 2012 smears took place in 2014 and 2015 with the results sent to Ms Morrissey’s treating gynaecologist in 2016 but she was not told until May 2018 of those results which showed her smears were reported incorrectly. The HSE admitted it owed a duty of care to Ms Morrissey. The laboratories deny all claims.


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