‘Unfortunately, The Same Cannot Be Said Of Many Others’


Vicky Phelan

The letter by Dr Katharine Astbury regarding cancer screening programmes causes me great concern.

The writers, all 12 of them actively involved in the important work of cancer screening, chose to take issue with the legal process rather than question the medical failings that have caused death and serious harm to so many women through failures in the cervical screening programme.

They chose not to address the issue of the clear failure of the colposcopists working with CervicalCheck to inform women for, in some cases, years of the truth about their screening history and the serious errors that they and CervicalCheck alone knew about – errors that the vast majority of the women only learned about after my own legal proceedings made hiding the truth no longer possible.

Sadly for those 18 women who have already died, that truth remained hidden from them to the end. Denied to them also was the small comfort of knowing that their families would be provided for, at least to some financial degree, after their death.

Instead, the writers claim: “Approaches to redress need to recognise that automatic financial compensation for future false negative cases could lead to all screening programmes being abandoned”, and elsewhere that claiming that politicians and commentators have called for “uncontested compensation” for “all individuals who have false negatives on audit review”.

This is not the case. Women who have a false negative smear result do not have any legal recourse. It is only women whose smear has been incompetently read and who have suffered harm as a consequence who can bring legal proceedings.

Incompetence has no place in any screening progamme and to seek to give shelter to such incompetence at the expense of even one woman’s health, let alone 209, is wrong. It is also incorrect to argue that the choice is a safe and accountable screening programme or no cancer screening programme at all.

After all, it was not the legal process they criticise that caused all this harm.

The writers call for those reacting to this controversy to act responsibly in the sole interest of the health of Irish women since the stakes are extremely high.

As the woman who exposed this controversy, as an Irish woman and as a woman whose life is at stake as a result of medical and management failings, I am acting in the sole interest of the health of Irish women.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of many others.

Vicky Phelan,

Cian O’Carroll,


Co Limerick.

Vicky Phelan on cervical screening scandal (Irish Times letters page)

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7 thoughts on “‘Unfortunately, The Same Cannot Be Said Of Many Others’

  1. steve white

    her doctor knew for a year and didn’t tell her, why no criticism of him?

    has incompetence been proven?

    1. Robert

      Wasn’t it her Doctor that blew the whistle in the first place? I think he was instructed not to but ultimately went with his conscience …

      1. Cian

        AFAIK her doctor knew for 14 months and didn’t tell the. He was in discussing with HSE about who should tell her. I don’t think the HSE *told* the doctors not to tell the patients, I think they suggested that they should not be told – but left it to the doctor’s discretion.
        Vicky was reading her file one day in and came across the letters – she found out ‘by mistake’.

        1. Robert

          I’m pretty sure it was her Doctor that gave her that file though, and it was redacted but had just enough information.

          My reading of the dialogue between himself and the HSE is that he was “strongly discouraged” from releasing the details. For whatever reason, he must have played some otherwise helpful role why else would he be off the hook? Hard to believe a plucky Broadsheet commenter could see through all the details from their own bedroom and nail the truth that has eluded months of commentary and analysis.

          1. Cian

            Oops, it seems that her doctor did tell her, albeit 14 months after he found out.

            “They start on July 21, 2016, when CervicalCheck contacted her consultant gynaecologist, Kevin Hickey, to tell him that his patient’s smear test had been reviewed, abnormalities had been detected, and left it up to Mr Hickey to tell Mrs Phelan “if open disclosure is indicated”. ”

            [… 14 months worth of letters later]

            “The following month, Mr Hickey told Mrs Phelan about the audit. “It is because I feel the women deserve to know the results of the audit process, I have taken it on myself to go through the results of the audit with them as they return for their follow-up clinic,” he wrote to Dr Flannelly in August 2017. ”

            It seems that she also found out more info from the Cervical Check letter to her doctor in her file


          2. John

            Cian you really are a piece of work. The government must be paying you an awful lot for you to sleep soundly at night.

  2. gringo

    Sympathetic Simon will sort this out. Shure he loves to help all the women of Ireland.

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