Editorial – Adrienne’s legacy

The late Adrienne Cullen

IT WAS with great sadness that Limerick people learned this week of the death of brave campaigner, Adrienne Cullen who lost her battle with cervical cancer on New Year’s Eve.

The premature passing of the former Salesians student at the age of just 58 would be tragic enough but the fact that the disease which took her could have been treated is particularly shocking.

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Adrienne was one of the victims of a missed early diagnosis in the cervical screening programme and a subsequent failure to inform the patient of the fact that it had been missed until it was too late.

Her tragedy was played out in Holland, a country normally noted for its excellent medical care.

In Ireland, we are no strangers to such stories. We have lost beautiful, strong women because of the mistakes that were made and it is certain that we will lose many more.

The whole cervical cancer screening issue has highlighted the fact that mistakes happen. That they do happen is a difficult but acceptable fact.

That people play pass the parcel with the information afterwards and scramble to cover up is not.

At least some of the women now under death sentence could have been saved if they had been alerted to the misread tests as soon as those tests surfaced. But they were not.

If a person takes irresponsible risks in a car there are penalties, up to and including prison if that behaviour has caused loss of life or put people at risk.

Yet putting the lives of women at risk by withholding information does not seem to carry any penalty under criminal law and the only resort for women and their families is the civil court.

Even there, the legal eagles have tried to silence these women with settlements that are subject to gagging orders.

Adrienne Cullen’s final wish was that Europe would step in with legislation to ban such orders. She and other brave women have made their own statements to that effect.

Now it’s time for the rest of us to speak up and demand that our politicians underpin such important freedom of speech with legislation.