Ruth Morrissey determined not to be defeated by cancer after 'relief' of landmark case win

Ruth Morrissey determined not to be defeated by cancer after 'relief' of landmark case win

Ruth Morrissey has spoken of the relief she felt in the wake of a landmark High Court case over her CervicalCheck smear tests.

The 37-year-old, who is terminally ill, was awarded €2.1m after she won her case against the HSE and two US laboratories in relation to the testing of her cervical smear slides in 2009 and 2012.

"I'd like to say it was really exciting, it was more of a relief," she said on RTE Radio 1's Sunday with Miriam programme today.

"The win for me was more around the labs; We won against them and that was the main thing for me. It was just a relief that the labs were found to be responsible and accountable," she said.

The Limerick woman, who has been given two years to live, is determined to stay positive and make the best of each day.

"It's not like I jump out of bed straight away, I have to think about it in the morning and ask is it going to be a good day," she said.

"I have bad days when I don't want to get out of my bed, I want to curl up and say. why me, why did this happen to me, what did we do to deserve this.

But the majority of my days are positive, you have to have that positive mind frame because, if you don't, you'll give up and you're going to let it win, and by God, I'm not going to let it win.

Ms Morrissey said she was "angry" that she had to go to court despite assurances from Taoiseach Leo Varadkar that women affected by the CervicalCheck scandal could engage in mediation.

"I was angry but realistically, when you go through your emotional rollercoaster and you think back, he made a promise that he couldn't keep," she said.

"I'm sure he was convinced himself it [mediation] was an option for us.

"When I thought about it, they [the labs and the HSE] have a right to defend themselves in a court case as much as I do. I said, 'cop on, Ruth, this is going to trial'."

In the case, Ms Morrissey and her husband Paul Morrissey had sued the HSE and two US laboratories, Quest Diagnostics Ireland Ltd and Medlab Pathology Ltd.

Ruth Morrissey determined not to be defeated by cancer after 'relief' of landmark case win

It was claimed there was an alleged failure to correctly report and diagnose and there was an alleged 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 was 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 denied all claims.

Ms Morrissey said the events that led her to make the decision to go to court happened quickly.

"When we found out that I was one of the ladies impacted [by the CervicalCheck scandal], we were kind of left in limbo, we didn't know where to turn to," she said.

"We felt the only ones we could go to who had any answers were Cian (O'Carroll), my solicitor. We had questions about whether this was a cover-up, there were so many unanswered questions.

"[The court case] was tough to go through but it was something that needed to be done eventually.

It gave us the opportunity to unfold some elements that people weren't aware of, that the HSE was responsible for the contracts and the overall programme. From that perspective, it was very important.

She described going for a routine smear test in 2009, a procedure she says she never missed as it was so important.

In 2012, she was told she was "absolutely fine". However, she started having symptoms two years later when she noticed the presence of a pale "pink panther" type of blood after sex.

"I kept telling my husband there was something wrong with him," she said.

A visit to her doctor led to an expedited colposcopy after something was seen on her cervix. Following further tests, she was told on July 1 that she had cervical cancer.

I was shocked. You know when you see in the movies where people go deaf and they have an out of body experience, that was me. I couldn't believe it.

Ms Morriseey was transferred to Cork where it was decided that she would undergo a trachelectomy, a procedure to remove part of the cervix.

"I was still shocked, but it came across to me that it was caught really early and I was lucky and I was assured that it would be fine," she said.

The mother-of-one did not want to undergo a hysterectomy as she did not want to go through the menopause at 33 but told her doctor she would proceed with the best option available to her.

In May 2018, Ms Morrissey discovered that there had been a misreading of her initial smear tests.

"When we were given the results we were told the 2009 smear would have had a significant impact on my health. How unlucky could I be."

She has been given the prognosis of two years to live, but says she doesn't accept that as she is "a very positive person".

She is also struggling with mobility issues as the cancer has "cocooned itself" in her body, affecting her ability to walk.

However, her family are the most important thing, with Ms Morrissey praising "her rock" husband Paul and "amazing" daughter Libby.

"[Libby] is amazing, from her head to her toe. She's a wonderful human being and person and she keeps us going.

We're a family unit of three, we love each other very much, we do everything together.

A further outcome of the case is that it set an important legal precedent in which the Judge set the future threshold for negligence in screening programmes at "absolute confidence".

This means that the all-clear cannot be given when assessing a test slide unless there is "absolute confidence" in the results.

Ms Morrissey explained: "If there's any doubt whatever it has to be called negative.

"It's not like you're looking at a sheet or a slide that has no impact, this is someone's life you're looking at. If there is any doubt then it should not be passed, it's very simple.

"It's going to give more assurance to people that they're going to have a proper screening programme because this is someone's life," she said.

Additional reporting by Ann O'Loughlin

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