Saturday 18 January 2020

Couple tells of 'heartbreaking' cancer in smear tests legal fight

Ruth and Paul Morrissey are suing the HSE and two US labs. Photo: Collins
Ruth and Paul Morrissey are suing the HSE and two US labs. Photo: Collins

A man whose wife has cervical cancer has told the High Court his family feels like there is a "dark cloud" over them.

Paul Morrissey was giving evidence after Mr Justice Kevin Cross resumed hearing the couple's action over alleged misreading of smears taken under the CervicalCheck programme.

The court heard his wife Ruth's scan results this month are very disappointing.

"It is like a bad dream you can't wake up from," he said.

"Just imagine if it was your wife, the love of your life. It seems to be one thing after another. It is heartbreaking, terrifying and unimaginable."

Ms Morrissey (37) told the court she had asked about surgery after her cervical cancer recurred last year but was told that was not possible

"It is tough at home. With so much radiotherapy and chemotherapy, we thought I had a chance of getting through," she said.

Had she known earlier of the results of a review of her smear slides, which showed they were reported incorrectly, she would have asked for more scans.

Ms Morrissey said she was told of the review last May.

"If I had known in 2015 and 2016 I would have absolutely asked for more scans and better surveillance. If they said no, I would have gone private."


When the case reopened yesterday after being adjourned last July, Jeremy Maher SC, for the couple, updated the court on Ms Morrissey's condition.

She was separately diagnosed with breast cancer and had a double mastectomy in November and her prognosis would be excellent but for the cervical cancer, he said.

Scans and an MRI this month had shown disappointing results and there was concern, despite chemotherapy and radiotherapy, the symptoms have returned.

The couple, of Kylemore, Schoolhouse Road, Monaleen, Co Limerick, have sued the HSE; US laboratory Quest Diagnostics Ireland, with offices at Sir John Rogerson's Quay, Dublin; and Medlab Pathology, with offices at Sandyford Business Park, Dublin 18.

It is claimed there was failure to correctly report and diagnose and alleged misinterpretation of her smear samples taken in 2009 and 2012, and that her cancer spread unidentified, unmonitored and untreated until she was diagnosed with cervical cancer in June 2014.

It is further claimed a review of the 2009 and 2012 smears took place in 2014 and 2015, with the results sent to Ms Morrissey's treating gynaecologist in 2016.

The HSE has admitted it owed a duty of care to Ms Morrissey but denies it owed such a duty to her husband. The laboratories deny all claims.

Yesterday, Mr Maher said they were also contending the number of cells examined on the 2012 test was inadequate.

They were also contending that, if Ms Morrissey had been told the results of the smear test reviews earlier, she would have insisted on other scans.


"There was an opportunity to detect an occurrence of the tumour at an earlier stage.

"You would have the probability of life rather than the probability of death," Mr Maher said.

Patrick Hanratty SC, for the HSE, had objected to the widening of the case but the Morrissey side argued the HSE knew of the issue from a medical report referred to it last September.

Mr Justice Cross ruled the case should proceed on its expanded basis.

The case continues.

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