Ruth Morrissey in High Court bid to seek key documents on CervicalCheck screening

Ruth Morrissey. File image

37-year old Ruth Morrissey, who is suing over alleged misinterpretation of her cervical smears, today went to the High Court in a bid to get the HSE and two laboratories to hand over key documents relating to CervicalCheck screening.

These included all instructions and advice given to the HSE in relation to the circulation of the results of smear tests audits and all instructions to treating doctors on the communication of the audit results to the women affected.

Key communications between the HSE and the US laboratories who carried out the smear tests under the CervicalCheck Screening programme about quality assurance standards were also sought.

Mr Justice Cross said he accepted the HSE submissions that the categories sought were not relevant or necessary. He also accepted the contention on behalf of the laboratories that quality assurances in general in relation to all smear samples is not going to be relevant. The categories sought the judge agreed were too wide and not relevant and he gave Ms Morrissey's legal team time to consider whether to ask for a limited discovery.

Following an application by the HSE and the laboratories for the costs of the one day hearing the judge said he was reserving the matter of costs.

Ruth Morrissey (37) and her husband Paul Morrissey of Kylemore, Schoolhouse Road, Monaleen, Co Limerick have sued the HSE and the US laboratory 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. The case is due to resume before the High Court at the end of January.

It is 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. A situation it is claimed allegedly developed where Ms Morrissey’s 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 this year of those review results which showed her smears were reported incorrectly.

The HSE the court has heard admitted it owed a duty of care to Ms Morrissey but not to her husband and it admits the results of her smear reviews should have been made known to Ms Morrissey. The laboratories deny all claims. Ms Morrissey suffered a recurrence of her cervical cancer this year and was also diagnosed with breast cancer.

Ruth Morrissey's legal team had sought discovery of key documents from the HSE relating to the dissemination of the results of audits carried out of the prior cervical smears of women who had been diagnosed as having cervical cancer.

These were to include all instructions and or advice given to the HSE in relation to the dissemination of the results of audits along with all documentation generated by the HSE in relation to any decision whether to communicate the results of the audits to women or their treating physicians,

They further sought all communication between the HSE and the laboratories in relation to the quality assurance standards and in relation to standard operating procedures that were to apply to the screening of the cervical smears of women participating in the national cervical screening programme.

Correspondence between the former chair of the Quality Assurance Committee for Cervical Cytology and Pathology in the Cervical Screening Programme, Dr David Gibbons, the HSE, the Department of Health, the Minister of Health and any Oireachtas committee regarding the outsourcing of the Pap smear laboratory services to foreign laboratories was also sought.

Making the application Jeremy Maher SC for Ms Morrissey said the documents and discovery were essential to the proper presentation of Ruth Morrissey's case.

"We have been told no obstruction would be placed in the path of victims of cervical cancer. You will be surprised at the response of the HSE which is no, no, no," he said.

He said it was a real issue for Ruth Morrissey why the audit results were not communicated to those whose smear samples were being audited.

HSE Counsel Patrick Hanratty SC submitted the categories sought would “ significantly widen “ the issues in the case and he said it would add to the complexity and cost of the trial.

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