Plea for no more court cases as Limerick woman awarded €2 million

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Ruth Morrissey with her husband Paul after the High Court judgement.
Ruth Morrissey with her husband Paul after the High Court judgement.

A LIMERICK woman, who was put through the full rigour of a 37-day court case after she developed cancer following a misread cervical smear, has said she was angry that Taoiseach Leo Varadkar promised a tribunal that he wouldn’t deliver.

And support groups for victims of the cervical smear scandal have pleaded that no other sick woman be made to endure the ordeal.

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Ruth Morrissey from Monaleen was awarded €2.1 million in the wake of a landmark High Court case over her CervicalCheck smear tests last week.

The 37-year-old mother of one has been told she is unlikely to survive more than two years.

Ms Morrisey was the first woman to have go to court since fellow Limerick woman and cervical cancer sufferer, Vicky Phelan settled her action.

The Monaleen woman won her case against the HSE and two US laboratories, Quest Diagnostics and Medlab Pathology in relation to the testing of her cervical smear slides in 2009 and 2012.

She said she was “angry” that she had to go to court despite assurances from the Taoiseach that women affected by the CervicalCheck scandal could engage in mediation.

“I was angry but realistically, when you go through your emotional rollercoaster and you think back, he made a promise that he couldn’t keep,” she said.

“When I thought about it, the labs and the HSE have a right to defend themselves in a court case as much as I do. I said, ‘cop on, Ruth, this is going to trial’.”

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

It was further claimed that 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, but she was not told until May 2018 of those results which showed her smears were reported incorrectly.

MedLab has issued a statement saying they will review the case with a view to appealing the decision.

Delivering his judgment, Judge Kevin Cross said that Ms Morrissey’s had been ruined.

The HSE, which runs the CervicalCheck screening programme, and the two companies that analysed her smear tests, denied responsibility and fought Ms Morrissey for 37 days in the High Court, but Mr Justice Cross held them jointly and equally liable for what happened.

Victims of the CervicalCheck scandal are pleading for other women to be spared the ordeal.

They called on the Taoiseach to reconsider the terms of a planned compensation tribunal which would operate in private.

The 221 Plus advocacy group was critical of the court process.

“Cases like this are a no-win situation for all involved. It highlights our deepest concerns about the raw and needless cruelty of forcing women, who it is accepted have already been wronged by the State, into an adversarial public legal process that makes them feel like they are ‘on trial’ just to establish the profile or the extent of that wrong and how it happened. This is simply unacceptable,” it said.

Vicky Phelan said she was also concerned that the tribunal would still be adversarial and would require women to give evidence and argue their case.

“The State can do something here. They can go ahead and intervene so that these cases can be settled faster, in a more conciliatory way,” she suggested.