Stephen Teap, who lost his wife Irene to cervical cancer, called for mandatory open disclosure of medical errors to allow patients to find their truth.
Speaking at an event in University College Cork to mark the unveiling of a portrait of Vicky Phelan on campus, he urged those present to be inspired by her efforts.
Irene Teap was one of over 200 women with cervical cancer whose smear results were found following an audit to have been misread. A recently concluded court case confirmed this in her case.
The controversy was first revealed by Vicky Phelan in 2018.
Mr Teap said the misreading was discovered weeks before his wife’s death, but not shared with them.
“Since the beginning of her diagnosis, Irene always said, ‘How did this happen to me, I did everything right?’” he said.
“Never once did they say an audit would be taking place, we can get you an answer, we’ll be reviewing those slides.”
He stressed mandatory disclosure would not have affected her outcome, praising her oncology team in Cork.
“The truth that I know, since last month, after four-and-a-half years of breaking down walls to find Irene’s truth, was that both of Irene’s slides were read incorrectly.”
He called for legislation around this to be supported, adding that one of the many issues in the Cervical Check scandal was miscommunication and the failure to share information.
Ms Phelan’s solicitor Cian O’Carroll discussed her case. He suggested UCC host a symposium between doctors and lawyers to bridge the gap in understanding between the professions.
“Doctors are not ‘baddies’ who think patients shouldn’t be told things, but it is really hard to tell somebody that a mistake has been made,” he said.
“If you are the person telling them, they are going to associate you with the blame for the mistake.
“You’re working within a system which is probably creaking, and that is really hard to take on that responsibility.”
He said during Vicky’s case, there had been “significant over and back” between doctors before she was informed of the audit.
UCC invited medical consultants to take part, but due to crisis situations affecting hospitals, they were unable to attend.
Also addressing the event was Waterford student Róisín Ní Chladha. She carried out a survey for the BT Young Scientist competition on awareness of cervical cancer which has fed into HSE campaigns.
“Over half of the general population of the country, 52%, didn’t have a good understanding of the causes of cervical cancer,” she said.
“And women, before the scandal, only about 10% actually understood what their smear tests meant and that did increase after the scandal. That is the root of the problem.”
The powerful painting, by Vincent Devine, is in three panels telling Ms Phelan’s story. Now owned by her childhood friend David Brennan, who also spoke at the event, it will be on display in the Boole Library on the UCC campus.
Ms Phelan’s parents and husband, Jim, also attended the moving event.