Woman claiming her life was damaged by treatment settles action over cervical smear slide

The settlement is regarded as significant for a number of other cases against testing laboratories and linked to the CervicalCheck controversy
Woman claiming her life was damaged by treatment settles action over cervical smear slide

The HSE expressed “deep regret” in the High Court to the 63-year-old grandmother and her family and said it was sorry for the challenges she has had to face as a result of her cancer diagnosis. File photo

A woman in remission from cervical cancer who sued, claiming the cancer treatment had a damaging effect on her life, has settled a High Court action over the alleged misreporting of her smear slide.

The HSE expressed “deep regret” in the High Court to the 63-year-old grandmother and her family and said it was sorry for the challenges she has had to face as a result of her cancer diagnosis.

The settlement on day 16 of the test action is being regarded as significant for a number of other cases brought by women against various testing laboratories and linked to the CervicalCheck controversy. Those cases are due before the High Court in the coming months and the latest terms of settlement in this case, which centred on the legal issue of which laboratory should ultimately bear responsibility for the reading of a smear slide, will govern them.

Already there are seven cases in the pipeline which will be governed by the terms of settlement in this action with more due before the High Court later in the year.

In the apology read to the court, the HSE also acknowledged and said it regretted that throughout the proceedings a dispute between laboratories and laboratory companies it had contracted to test smear slides “resulted in a delay in resolution of your case.” 

HSE statement:

“The Health Service Executive would like to express their deep regret to you and your family, acknowledging the many challenges that you have faced as a result of your diagnosis. The HSE is sorry that you have had to face those challenges.

“In addition, we acknowledge and regret that throughout these proceedings a dispute between laboratories and laboratory companies that we contracted resulted in a delay in the resolution of your case.

"The HSE notes that your case has achieved resolution of the issues which have arisen between these various laboratories and is confident that the difficulties you have had to endure throughout these proceedings will be of benefit to many other women and their families in other cases.” 

The woman had sued the HSE and three laboratories, Sonic Healthcare (Ireland ) Ltd and Medlab Pathology Ltd both of Sandyford Business Centre, Blackthorn Road, Sandyford Business Park, Dublin, and Clinical Pathology Laboratories Incorporated (CPL) of Austin, Texas, USA. The settlement is against the HSE and CPL with Medlab also paying a portion of the costs.

Her counsel, Patrick Treacy SC with Jeremy Maher SC and Ciara McGoldrick BL instructed by Cian O’Carroll solicitor, told the court on Friday the settlement had been reached after over two days of talks by the parties. Mr Justice Paul Coffey said he wanted to express his delight “this long saga of litigation” had come to the end for the woman.

The woman had a smear test under the CervicalCheck national screening programme in October 2010 which was reported as showing no abnormalities detected. Six years later she was diagnosed as having invasive cervical cancer.

Woman's claims

In the proceedings, it was claimed the alleged delay in the diagnosis resulted in the woman developing invasive cervical cancer requiring more extensive treatment. It was further claimed, had the woman’s smear sample taken in 2010 been correctly reported, she could have been treated with one procedure.

The woman, after her 2016 diagnosis, had to have a lymphadenectomy, chemotherapy, radiotherapy and brachytherapy and it is claimed she continues to suffer various side-effects from her treatment.

At the opening of the case, Mr Treacy SC told the court the woman is in remission but the treatment for her cervical cancer has had “an enormously damaging effect on her life”. 

Counsel said this was not a case where there is a reduced life expectancy, but he said it was their case that she had to undergo unnecessary treatment including bouts of chemotherapy. It was contended she was caused to suffer unnecessary pain, discomfort and distress and to be subjected to extensive surgical and medical interventions.

All the claims were denied.

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