Woman who was not referred for testing and now has terminal ovarian cancer settles case for €2m

By Ann O'Loughlin

A woman who has terminal ovarian cancer and sued over an alleged failure to take adequate measures to protect her from the risk of developing the disease has settled her High Court action against the HSE for €2 million.

The mother who cannot be named by order of the court had a family history of ovarian cancer but claimed she was not referred for genetic testing.

The real tragedy of her case her senior counsel told the High Court today was that when the woman was genetically tested in September last year, months after developing ovarian cancer she was found to be " carrier all the time."

The settlement of the action by the woman and her family was brought about after mediation talks and is without an admission of liability.

Her counsel Patrick Treacy SC instructed by Cian Carroll solicitor told the court the HSE intends to send a "letter of regret" to the woman.

The woman’s case came to light during the CervicalCheck controversy and when Limerick woman Vicky Phelan settled her case over alleged delays for €2.5 million.

Counsel said it was the woman's concern her case would improve the genetic screening services.

The woman, her husband and family had sued the HSE.

It was claimed the woman who had a family history of ovarian cancer had from August 2010 attended at regular intervals at University Hospital, Limerick and at Mid Western Hospital, Nenagh for screening in relation to her risk of developing ovarian cancer.

In 2015 she underwent a colposcopy at and was diagnosed mild changes in the cervix area In February 2017, she was found to have ovarian tumours and pathology showed high grade 3 serious cancer of both ovaries and she had to have a hysterectomy.

Following a genetic analysis in September 2017, she was found to have a pathogenic mutation in the BRCA1 gene, which means she was a person who was at risk of ovarian cancer.

It was claimed that there was a situation where the woman’s cancer was allowed to develop and spread unidentified, unmonitored and untreated until she was diagnosed with Stage 3c high grade serous ovarian cancer in February 2017.

It was further claimed there was an alleged failure to refer the woman for genetic testing or genetic advice and she was allegedly caused to suffer unnecessary pain, discomfort, distress and to be subjected to extensive surgical and medical interventions and ultimately a terminal illness.

She further alleged her life expectancy was caused to be significantly reduced and stands at about 24 months.

She claimed she had lost the opportunity of cure and her life expectancy has been severely impaired.

All claims were denied by the HSE.

In court today Pat Treacy SC instructed by Cian O’Carroll solicitor said it was a very tragic case where the woman had a lifetime risk of developing ovarian cancer which Counsel said was at over 60%.

From August 2010, Counsel said his side contended she should have been referred for genetic counselling and testing which his side said would have identified the gene.

If she had been assessed as having the gene, Counsel said the woman could have had a procedure which would have prevented her from developing ovarian cancer.

He said she had a strong family background in ovarian cancer and her mother had died aged in her 40s and also an aunt and a niece had died of the disease.

His side would say that that the woman was not properly assessed in August 2010 when she presented at the Limerick hospital and that she had other cancer changes in her body from 2013.

His side contended between June 2013 and 2015 there were pre-cancerous cells in the woman's body and Counsel said that an expert on their side would have said she should have been referred for genetic counselling and testing by at least 2013.

The case had been due to go on trial in the High Court today as an urgent case for hearing. Mr Justice Paul Butler approved the settlement.

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