Cian O’Carroll, the solicitor for Ruth Morrissey, has described comments by Dr Peter McKenna of the HSE about the possibility of the withdrawal of screening programmes, as “vindictive.”
“The issue here is that you have a senior manager within the HSE, Dr Peter McKenna, alluding to the fact that at a crisis meeting calls were made to shut down screening, now that sounds almost vindictive to me.
“That is totally unnecessary and unjustified based on this judgment which is nothing new. The test hasn't changed. Why should Irish women not be entitled to the same standards of care in their screening that their sisters in the UK are?” he asked on RTE radio’s News at One.
He was commenting on the decision by US laboratory Quest Diagnostics to appeal last week’s High Court award of €2.1m to Ruth Morrissey.
“They're entitled to appeal, that's the way the legal system works, hopefully the appeal can be dealt with quickly and then there can be certainty for Ruth and Paul Morrissey and also put an end to what the judge described as ‘ill-informed and hysterical commentary’ which has been going on for the last week as his judgement has been misrepresented by various people in the medical profession and the HSE.”
The appeal did not come as a surprise to the Morrisseys, he said as the other laboratory involved in the case, MedLads, had lodged their appeal shortly after the judgment.
“The HSE have clearly been building up their reasons for an appeal, what's important to remember about the HSE is that the court found them to be primarily responsible for the running of the screening programme which they denied.
“The HSE threw out the case, sat by and made no comment on these discussions, about the standard of care in screening and the test of absolute confidence and they made no submission on it, the two laboratories did make a submission, like the plaintiff effectively said this is the accepted test or standard to go by absolute confidence and yet now when the case is over and having made no submission on it whatsoever, we have representatives of the HSE including one of their directors, Dr McKenna coming out today and saying this is going to potentially bring about the collapse of the wider screening programme in Ireland.
“Why didn't they make these arguments when they had the chance in court? They've now chosen to do it on the radio.
“In court today the judge said there as nothing new in his judgement, the backbone is the factual test which is then put into the legal test within the UK since 1999. The legal test in Ireland remains, the Dunne test which was established by the Supreme Court of Ireland in 1989, 30 years ago.
“There is nothing new here. The judge had to decide here what is the factual test
On the same programme Professor Deborah McNamara, a bowel cancer specialist, that there was great concern that screening programmes should remain in place because they save lives.
“Screening programmes are not perfect, they cannot deliver absolute certainty or absolute confidence. They are not a diagnostic test.
“I can understand the HSE position, but on balance it would be bad if screening programmes are threatened by this judgment.
“Patients are worried. We have to remember screening programmes save lives.”