Dr Gabriel Scally has welcomed the successful High Court case taken by Stephen Teap whose wife Irene died from cervical cancer following two misread smear tests.
The HSE and two US laboratories on Thursday admitted liability in the case of mother-of-two Irene Teap who died after being diagnosed with cervical cancer.
Ms Teap died aged 35 in July 2017, after being diagnosed with stage 2 cancer in September 2015. She had received negative smear test results in 2010 and 2013. Her widower, Mr Teap, and their sons Oscar (9) and Noah (7) settled their legal claims for personal injuries, severe psychiatric upset, loss and damage.
Speaking on Friday morning, Dr Scally said: “I am so delighted for Stephen that this is finally over, it has been a long and traumatic experience for him starting of course with his wife's death and it has continued and you can see in his statement how traumatic it has been and there's no reason why it had to be like this.”
The CervicalCheck programme “really ran a really botched audit, it didn’t have proper quality assurance of the laboratories in America,” he told RTÉ's.
“Slides were sent to labs all over the place that CervicalCheck had no idea about that didn't meet the required quality standards that were asked for in the contracts.”
Some of the labs have since disappeared, he said.
“It's very disturbing the whole thing, Stephen is quite right that more needs to happen. He supported the duty of candour that all doctors and health professionals should all have an obligation to tell the truth and be honest to their patients because that isn’t what happened.
“Stephen and his wife were not told the truth at the right time.”
Dr Scally said that the public had good reason to be confident that the current laboratory testing services were “as good as they can be” and that the planned lab in the Coombe hospital would provide a good service for Ireland.
“The future is good in terms of the programme.”
However, there was a problem, as had been highlighted by Mr Teap, with the justice system and legislation that meant patients could not complain about the standard of clinical care they receive.
Such legislation should be removed, he urged. “We must have openness and honesty. There is a duty of care for health professionals to tell the truth. And when things go wrong they should give a genuine apology.”
There needed to be a shift from the patronising and paternalistic attitude by a small proportion of doctors, added Dr Scally.