Ruth Morrissey and her husband Paul outside the High Court on Thursday
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar was asked about terminally ill Limerick mum Ruth Morrissey, 37, who will return to the High Court tomorrow – in light of him saying in May that no more women affected by the cervical cancer scandal would have to go to court.
Last Thursday, Ms Morrissey, who has cervical cancer and may have less than two years to live, began her action for damages against the HSE and two laboratories, Quest Diagnostics and Medlab Pathology Ltd.
Ms Morrissey claims smear tests carried out in 2009 and 2012 were wrongly reported as being normal and that a review of these smears took place in 2014 and 2015 with the results being sent to her gynaecologist in 2016 – but she was not told until May this year.
She was diagnosed with cancer in 2014.
Further to this….
The Taoiseach told RTÉ:
“I am very sorry that she has cancer, I’m very sorry for her and her family, I’m very sorry it wasn’t picked up earlier on screening.
“I’m very sorry she wasn’t informed of the audit when she should have been and I really do hope that the treatments she’s getting is successful and it will extend her life so she can see her daughter grow up. I think that’s the most important thing.
“This is an ongoing court action, I’m not in hiding, but I’m sure you’ll understand that I am limited in what I can say about an ongoing court case. I’m not party to the case, some of the facts are confidential, some of the facts are privileged and I don’t want to say anything that might prejudice the outcome.
“But there are a few things that I can say. Certainly what the Government wants is that all cases are settled by mediation so the women can avoid a court trial – that is absolutely what we want. Two cases have been settled by mediation already without a trial.
“Mediation did occur in this case but wasn’t successful. And I spoke to the Attorney General on Friday, I think it was, to speak to the State Claims Agency, to ask that mediation be resumed, be recommenced with the view to settling this case out of court. And it’s hope that that can still be done.
“And that’s certainly, I think, what we want to happen. It is, however, and I acknowledge this, it is the constitutional right of anyone to go to court if they feel that’s in their best interests. And that’s a constitutional right and I perhaps should have been more clear about that, back in May, acknowledging that people have the constitutional right to go to court if they feel it’s in their best interests. And no Government can take that away, nor should any Government want to take that away.”
Meanwhile, earlier this morning…
On RTÉ’s Today with Miriam O’Callaghan, Limerick mum-of-two Vicky Phelan – who is to meet Mr Varadkar on Wednesday – said she is going to ask him to make good on his promise that women wouldn’t have to be “dragged” through the courts.
“There are another 40-something cases come down the line that are going to have to be taken. So are we going to have to see this at every case that is taken. So, for me, it is to go up there and ask the Taoiseach to make good on his commitment, basically, to the women of this country. Because if he doesn’t, I don’t think he should be in the position he’s in.“
RTÉ’s health correspondent Fergal Bowers told Claire Byrne, on RTÉ’s News at One:
“The point here is the laboratories and their insurers have a say also in this, as defendants. They have insurance against each claim certainly being made but they may wish to fight some cases and see how matters play out.
“So it was never in the gift of the Government to say cases wouldn’t go to court because it’s a complex situation and everyone has the right to go to court, including the plaintiff in these cases.
“So there were a lot of promises not realised here. Like promising the Scally review would be completed by the end of June, well that didn’t happen. And that the review of 3,000 smear tests would be completed by the end of May, that didn’t happen. Or that we wouldn’t see more cases like this going before the courts. These things have just continued.”
Mr Bowers said there are 49 pending legal actions in relation to the scandal.