Terminally ill mother-of-four sues over alleged misreading of cervical smears

The court heard that "the situation is very dire for her".
Terminally ill mother-of-four sues over alleged misreading of cervical smears

The woman described in court as a much-loved wife and mother was first diagnosed with cancer six years ago but her cancer returned early last year and she is now terminally ill. File photo

A 46-year-old mother-of-four who is terminally ill with cervical cancer has launched a High Court action over the alleged incorrect reporting of three of her smear tests taken under the national screening programme.

The situation for the woman who cannot be identified by order of the court, Ms Justice Bronagh O’Hanlon was told, is now dire.

“The situation is very dire for her. She is dealing with a devastating diagnosis as best she can,” her Counsel, Oonah McCrann SC instructed by Cantillons solicitors, said.

The woman described in court as a much-loved wife and mother was first diagnosed with cancer six years ago but her cancer returned early last year and she is now terminally ill.

The case refers to three smears taken in 2011, 2012 and 2014. The woman was diagnosed with cervical cancer in 2015. Counsel said an internal review of smear slides by CervicalCheck a year after her diagnosis upgraded her slides from the initial reporting of no abnormality detected.

However, Counsel said the woman was not told for another two years in 2018 of the results of the smear slide reviews. Counsel said the specialist who told her reassured her it made no difference to her clinical outcome. 

Ms McCrann said:

In other words, she was going to have cancer anyway.

Counsel told the court a subsequent external review upgraded the smear slides and concluded there were missed opportunities to diagnose and treat pre-cancer.

The woman, her husband and their four children have all brought actions against US laboratory, Clinical Pathology Laboratories Inc, (CPL) Austin, Texas, Medlab Pathology Ltd with offices at Sandyford, Dublin, and the HSE.

It is claimed the three smears were incorrectly reported and cytological cell changes were allegedly allowed to develop and spread unidentified, unmonitored and untreated until the woman was diagnosed with cancer six years ago. There was, it was further claimed, an alleged failure to diagnose pre-cancerous or cancerous cells on a timely basis.

The woman, it is alleged, was denied the opportunity to receive and benefit from timely treatment and her disease was allegedly allowed to develop unhindered.

It is also claimed the woman’s constitutional rights were allegedly breached in the alleged inexcusable delay in conveying the results of the screening audit to her.

The laboratories deny all the claims and in court today extended sympathy to the woman and her family.

The HSE has accepted the outcome of the slides review should have been made known to the woman as soon as CervicalCheck was notified. The reassurance given by the specialist in 2018 regarding no alteration to the woman’s clinical outcome, it has said, was given in good faith but it has admitted the further review concluded the reassurance was not accurate.

A claim for nervous shock by the woman and her family has also been made.

Opening the case, Oonagh McCrann SC appearing with David Griffin BL, said the tragic circumstances of the case are acknowledged by all. Counsel said it was their case the woman should have been referred for a colonoscopy after her 2011 smear test. 

Counsel said the woman was utterly and completely devastated with the recurrence of her cancer last year.

The case before Ms Justice Bronagh O’Hanlon continues next week.

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