'I won’t see my children grow up' - Terminally ill mother settles smear tests case

She broke down as she told the High Court: "Everything is about making memories".
'I won’t see my children grow up' - Terminally ill mother settles smear tests case

Referring to an external review of her cervical smear slides which concluded there had been missed opportunities in her case to diagnose and treat pre-cancer, the woman said she was sad, angry and dumbfounded. File photo

A terminally ill mother of four who had sued over the alleged incorrect reporting of three of her smear tests has settled her High Court action.

This week the 46-year-old mother broke down as she told the High Court she won’t get to see her children grow up.

Giving her evidence by video link the woman who has terminal cervical cancer and who cannot be named by the order of the court, said her life is now about making memories.

“Everything is about making memories, I don’t know how much time I have left,” she told the judge.

On the third day of the hearing before Ms Justice Bronagh O’Hanlon, the judge was told the action taken by the woman had been settled.

Noting the settlement, the terms of which are confidential Ms Justice Bronagh O’Hanlon said it had been a privilege to have presided over the case and to hear the woman’s evidence. She wished the woman and her family the best of luck.

The claims

The case referred to three smears taken, in 2011, 2012 and 2014. The woman was diagnosed with cervical cancer in 2015 which recurred last year. She had sued US laboratory, Clinical Pathology Laboratories Inc, (CPL) Austin, Texas, Medlab Pathology Ltd with offices at Sandyford, Dublin and the HSE.

It was 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.

It was 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 denied all the claims and the settlement against them was without admission of liability.

The HSE had 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 her clinical outcome, it has said, was given in good faith but it admitted the further review concluded the reassurance was not accurate.

The woman’s Counsel, Oonah McCrann SC instructed by Cantillons solicitors at the opening of the case, said the situation for the woman who was a much-loved wife and mother was “very dire”.   

The woman's testimony

Giving her evidence to the court the woman said the Covid lockdown has given her more time at home with her children.

“Even if we are sitting on the sofa looking at a movie, we are making memories,” she said.

She said she trusted the doctors to look after her, but she fell at every turn.

She added:

Nobody looked after me. I don’t get to see my children grow up.

Referring to an external review of her cervical smear slides which concluded there had been missed opportunities in her case to diagnose and treat pre-cancer, the woman said she was sad, angry and dumbfounded.

In evidence, she said she was told in February 2020 her cancer had returned and spread to other parts of her body.

“It was everywhere; that was it.” Referring to the 2016 internal review by CervicalCheck which upgraded her smear slides from the initial reporting of no abnormality detected and which she was only told about two years later, she said she could not understand why she was called back to her specialist’s office.

The specialist told her the results of the review but reassured her it made no difference to her clinical outcome.

“I trusted him, I did not question what he told me,” she told the judge.

When after the external review she found out the specialist’s reassurance was incorrect she said she got angry and upset.

“I think of my children and everything we are going through,” she said.

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