Woman with terminal cancer sues over alleged misinterpretation of smear slide

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A woman who is terminally ill with cancer and who has sued over the alleged misinterpretation of her smear slide yesterday told the High Court she never thought for one second she had cervical cancer because she had no signs or symptoms.

The mother of two who was told just a few days before Christmas 2015 she had cervical cancer said she was crying when she was putting her children's presents under the Christmas tree on Christmas Eve 2015.

"I was crying. I did not know what was ahead of me," she told Mr Justice Kevin Cross.

It came as a shock to me. I had no symptoms of anything being wrong. I never thought for one second I have cervical cancer. I had no signs or symptoms.

The woman who cannot be identified by order of the court said she was given the cancer news over the phone when she told the nurse calling her in to the consultant’s office "to tell her straight" and asked had she cancer.

"She said I'm afraid you do."

The mother who is in her 40s now has Stage 4 cancer and has had palliative chemotherapy and her prognosis is between 12 months to 22 months.

The woman along with her husband has brought an action against the HSE and three laboratory companies including the one in Austin Texas which tested her smear slide in 2010 and reported it as negative.

Her counsel Patrick Treacy SC told the court the woman’s “ whole life in every respect has been devastated.”

He said she found out she had Stage 1b cervical cancer in December 2015 and Christmas "was off" as she had to tell her family which counsel said was a “traumatic event.”

Counsel said the “rubicon moment” was in September 2018, when she was told her cancer was inoperable but she has since had a new drug, which cleared her lung and reduced her pelvic cancer. However, Counsel said the woman does not now feel right in herself and requires another scan.

Mr Treacy told the court the real tragedy is of the woman’s smear test in 2010 had been correctly reported, she would have had an investigative procedure and would have been treated appropriately. Her side contends a pre cancerous lesion could have been excised and there was at that stage a 95 per cent chance of a cure and a less than one per cent chance of the cancer developing.

In September 2017, the woman was diagnosed as having a recurrence of the cancer and she had radical chemotherapy.

In April last year the woman had a further relapse and by August 2018 she has secondary cancer in the lungs.

The couple have sued the HSE along with two companies which provided medical diagnostic services in the State, Sonic Healthcare (Ireland) Ltd with registered offices at Sandyford Business Park, Dublin and Medlab Pathology Ltd with offices at Sandyford Business park, Dublin and US laboratory Clinical Pathology Laboratories Incorporated of Austin, Texas. It is claimed they all owed the woman a duty of care in the provision of the cervical screening programme and in the provision of all services associated with it.

The woman on September 17, 2010 underwent a cervical smear test as part of the national cervical screening programme. Her sample was sent for review and a laboratory report showed the sample was satisfactory for assessment and there was no evidence of the presence of abnormal tissue.

It is claimed there was an alleged failure to correctly report and diagnose and there was an alleged misinterpretation of the woman's smear slide taken in 2010 and that her cancer was allowed to develop and spread unidentified, unmonitored and untreated until she was diagnosed with cervical cancer in December 2015.

It is further alleged there was a failure to report the smear sample was inadequate for assessment and the woman was allegedly deprived of the opportunity of treatment at a time when the disease was amenable to curative treatment.

The woman's life expectancy, it is claimed to has been permitted to be significantly reduced.

The defendants deny all the claims. The case before Mr Justice Kevin Cross continues.

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