herald

Thursday 17 October 2019

Terminally ill mother Ruth awarded €2.1m over smear test failure

Ruth Morrissey
Ruth Morrissey

Terminally ill Ruth Morrissey and her husband, who sued over her CervicalCheck smear tests, have been awarded a total of €2.16m by the High Court.

Mr Justice Kevin Cross said the Limerick woman's life had been ruined.

Some €1.4m of the award was to her husband Paul, mainly comprising the loss of his wife's future income and care of their seven-year-old daughter Libby.

The total award to Ms Morrissey was €757,508.

She won her case against the HSE and two US laboratories in relation to the testing of her cervical smear slides in 2009 and 2012, in what was the first fully contested action relating to the CervicalCheck controversy.

Ruth Morrisey sharing a kiss with husband Paul outside court
Ruth Morrisey sharing a kiss with husband Paul outside court

Fight

Outside court, Ms Morrissey said she wanted to spend whatever quality time she had left with daughter Libby.

"What can I say? I did not think I would be in this position because our Taoiseach told us none of us would have to go through this - but unfortunately I am the one who had to do it," she said.

"I hope that's a positive thing, so the women who are left, they don't need to do this and fight for their right to have a good life of what they've left".

She also encouraged women to continue booking and having smear tests "even though it failed me".

Ms Morrissey urged women to get the HPV vaccine that protects against cervical cancer as "this is a cancer you do not want".

Mr Justice Cross ruled the HSE was entitled to an indemnity against the laboratories in respect of the entirety of the claim, except for a €10,000 award relating to the fact Ms Morrissey was not informed of an audit review of her smear tests.

He also ruled Ms Morrissey must fail in the allegation of negligence against the HSE in relation to her care after her treatment in 2014.

Finding against US laboratory Quest Diagnostics, he said a reasonably competent screener at the relevant time should not have failed to see what was on Ms Morrissey's 2009 slide.

The cells on the slide, as per the evidence of consultant cytopathologist Dr Michael McKenna, had clear peculiarities that showed themselves as being other than normal and this ought to have been seen by a competent screener, he said.

"I believe the American screeners were utilising their professional skill and judgment and recording what they believed as a matter of probability was the case, but that they ought not to have treated the slide as negative given the abnormalities as identified by Dr McKenna," the judge said.

Negligent

Referring to the 2012 smear test by the MedLab laboratory, the judge said though it contained abnormal and non-negative cells, the nature of these cells was such that the failure to record them as abnormal was not a breach of duty of care.

However, MedLab was negligent in failing to have the slide properly tested for adequacy.

Had Ms Morrissey's slide been properly analysed in 2009, or the slide in 2012 deemed inadequate, and had she had been reviewed within one to three months, then probably she would have been retested, he said.

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