Bereaved families bring cases, similar to Vicky Phelan's, against US labs

The families of three women who died after receiving false smear test results are among 10 pending cases similar to that of Vicky Phelan.

Vicky Phelan

All of the pending legal cases are against US labs, with no Irish labs involved, the State Claims Agency has confirmed.

Director Ciaran Breen revealed the agency only found out through the media about more than 200 women who could have had audit results kept from them and did not know the smear test scandal was far wider than Ms Phelan’s case before her situation was made public.

We did not understand the wider implications which we only learned of later,” he said.

Appearing before the Oireachtas finance committee, Mr Breen said his understanding right up to the end of Ms Phelan’s case was that all other women had been notified of false negative smear tests.

“Our understanding based on discussions with CervicalCheck was that all of the women had been informed, we didn’t even know the number at the time,” said Mr Breen. “At the time we certainly were of the view that all of the other women had been informed and then we heard it in the media.”

Sinn Féin TD Pearse Doherty said he was “deeply alarmed” that the State Claims Agency had been given what he described as false information from CervicalCheck which was “way off the mark”.

I am deeply alarmed that we have the State Claims Agency pursuing a victim here, somebody who was let down badly by the State in relation to non-disclosure and CervicalCheck, some senior person in there is telling you that all of the women identified in the audit were informed, that there is no other Vicky Phelan’s out there in terms of non-disclosure,” he said.

Mr Breen confirmed that on top of Ms Phelan’s case, the agency is aware of nine other actions in train as well as another potential case.

Three of the cases relate to women who have died between the original smear and now.

Mr Doherty suggested the HSE should settle with those involved and then sue the US labs in order to save women the hardship and trauma of going to court.

Mr Breen said: “None of these cases should go to trial, that’s the reality and in three of the cases, the US laboratory have already indemnified the agency.”

Under questioning from Richard Boyd Barrett, Mr Breen confirmed no Irish labs are involved in legal cases taken by victims of the CervicalCheck scandal.

Speaking after the committee meeting, Mr Boyd Barrett said this has confirmed warnings given as far back as 2008 that the quality of outsourced US screening would be inferior to that done here in Ireland.

“We have tried to get this information from the minister, Taoiseach, and the HSE for the last week but they have refused to provide it because they know it would be utterly damning of the political decision to outsource cervical smear testing to profit-driven private US companies,” he said.

“The State Claims Agency has told us what we have suspected all along that it was the US labs and only the US labs against whom cases have been taken for misreading and only US labs that have sought gagging orders.

“This is a totally damning confirmation of the folly of outsourcing the cervical smear screening.”

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