‘Tell That To My Children, And The Children Of Emma Mhic Mhathúna And Ruth Morrissey’


From top: Vicky Phelan; Dr David Robert Grimes; Dr Ciara Kelly; tweet from Dr David Robert Grimes this week, apology from Dr Grimes, Dr Kelly on Tonight last night 


Dr Ciara Kelly, of Newstalk, wrote an opinion piece last week’s Sunday Independent in which she asserted that medical screening services are under threat from litigation.

Dr Kelly argued:

Cervical screening saves Irish women’s lives. It is a public health success story, despite its limitations. If it is sued into oblivion, despite delivering results comparable to all international norms, who will benefit? Certainly not women. No one will benefit except those in receipt of legal fees.

…Our adversarial, highly litigious legal system is simply not compatible with the high level of false negatives in even the best public health screening. My understanding is that the lawyers are now circling BreastCheck too, to the extent that its legal costs are mounting.

Lawyers, currently being lauded as women’s advocates, will have done women no favours. No favours at all.

Limerick mum-of-two Vicky Phelan, who has been an ardent advocate for women to use cervical screening services since the day she went public with her case, posted several tweets in response to Dr Kelly’s article.

Ms Phelan was diagnosed with terminal cancer following a cervical smear test error. She settled a case against Clinical Pathology Laboratories Inc, Austin, Texas, for €2.5million.

Ms Phelan’s refusal to sign a gagging order about her case led to the knowledge that more than 200 women diagnosed with cancer were not informed of an audit which revised their earlier, negative smear tests.

Referring to Dr Kelly’s claims that people view CervicalCheck as “cause for litigation”, Ms Phelan said:

“This is simply not true. Of the 221 group so far, ONLY 6 cases have hit the courts. Yes, there are more cases pending but it is certainly not the case that all of the 221plus have cause to sue.

“I take offence at Ciara’s claim that ‘no one will benefit from suing except those in receipt of legal fees’.

“Tell that to my children, and the children of Emma Mhic Mhathúna and Ruth Morrissey who have successfully sued and who will not see our children grow up.

“Our settlements will be used to ‘benefit’ our families when we are gone.”

And in relation to the inference that those who sue will be the downfall of CervicalCheck screening programme, Ms Phelan said:

“CervicalCheck did that all on its own, as the Scally Report has shown.”

On Wednesday night, cancer researcher Dr David Robert Grimes, who has been promoting his book The Irrational Ape the past number of months, tweeted about Ms Phelan’s use of one of the therapies she uses – hyperbaric oxygen therapy, a process that involves breathing pure oxygen in an enclosed chamber.

He said:

“What’s the correct etiquette for when a high profile national hero pushes dangerous pseudoscience? Asking for a friend (and) my sanity, as I would really prefer not to get the inevitable hate for calling it.”

Later, he tweeted:

“… apropos of nothing, hyperbaric oxygen therapy should not be advocated for conditions for which it is devoid of efficacy, (and) comes with risk of harm. It is not certainly not a cancer treatment, & can cause active damage. Please take medical advice only from your physician.”

Ms Phelan subsequently closed her Twitter account.

Yesterday, Dr Grimes apologised saying:

Yesterday I tweeted something thoughtless, & hurt a passionate patient advocate. My remark was ill-judged, & I I apologise unreservedly to Vicky Phelan for any hurt I caused.

Meanwhile, last night, Dr Kelly was on Virgin Media One’s Tonight show in which she told presenter Ivan Yates to “hold your horses” when he suggested she was “having a go at the legal profession and the claimants”.

Dr Kelly said she was wasn’t talking about the claimants but she was talking “about what the court system did”.

Dr Ciara Kelly: ‘Who benefits if screening is sued to oblivion? Not women’ (Sunday Independent)

‘I take offence’ – Vicky Phelan hits back at Ciara Kelly’s ‘disrespectful’ CervicalCheck article (Neil Michael, Irish Examiner)

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22 thoughts on “‘Tell That To My Children, And The Children Of Emma Mhic Mhathúna And Ruth Morrissey’

  1. class wario

    Grimes is a bit too reddit fedora tipping atheist for my liking in how he went about this but he had a point at least. Kelly is just an utter bore who spews up the worst possible ‘centrist’ takes at every possible opportunity.

    1. ivan

      He was 100% correct in what he said; pseudo science is pseudo science, no matter what the position is of the person extolling its virtue. If past ‘good’ was adequate cover for present ‘wrong’, Morrissey wouldn’t be cancelled.

      That said, the subtweeting might have been a smidgin meanspirited, but I gather that VP tends to block people who disagree with her on this therapy, and if he feels it’s his responsibility to undermine pseudoscience, (and people with large followings who advocate it…) then problems will arise.

      1. newsjustin

        It’s a difficult one, but, in general I’d say criticise pseudoscience, but don’t make smart-ass comments referring to actual people with a very serious illness.

        1. ivan

          Broadly agree, but person with influence, illness or not, has responsibility as well.

          This is what I call a “three pinter” discussion. At least.

      2. class wario

        tbh I think, over the last few years, there’s been a decent bit of overlap between totally worthwhile causes arising from failures by the state and quackery/bad faith grifters clinging to said causes. so I do agree in a sense that we shouldn’t be afraid to call people out for cozying up to stuff like this or the Irish yellow vest lads or Ben Gilroy or whoever champions them. just think Grimes went about it in a poor manner (probably a bit of a default setting given some of the utter ghouls he’s dealt with over the years)

      1. class wario

        plenty of them on there too, only with an added dash of white nationalism. strange accusation to make regardless

        1. dav

          the use of “reddit fedora tipping atheist” might lead one to think you subscribe to 4chan beliefs, apologies if you don’t

  2. GiggidyGoo

    “Yesterday I succeeded in getting free advertising for.my book – the only non monetary cost to me was a tweeted ‘apology ‘”

  3. Harry M

    This whole scandal is a bloody mess, screening is never about prevention but is only about risk mitigation. Screening should never tell you that you are cancer free, but only that cancer has not been detected. Every time you get screened and every time cancer has not been found, the risk that you will get it continues to reduce.

    The only thing wrong with the screening programme was the messaging around it, ie if anyone was told they were cancer free then that should not have happened and shows a complete misunderstanding of how screening works. Obviously, a positive reading should be communicated.

    One thing people may find surprising is that the error rate for the irish screening programme is in line with the rest of the world (no test in the world is 100% accurate and never will be) and there are only a small handful of countries that will actually communicate to the patient that their result may have been inaccurate. Why? Because the test should not say cancer free, just undetected and you should still submit to regular testing. Personally, i do not see why a patient should not be recalled if there’s a chance there may have been an issue with the accuracy of the test.

    But Ciara Kelly is right here, having a test is infinitely better than having none. And the way various politicians and groups have clung onto this for typical publicity, and the amount of misinformation around testing, is a national shame. As is the silence on other groups who could clarify matters but are afraid of the backlash. But we live in the era of public shaming where there is a real fear to go against the narrative lest you bare your jugular to opportunists.

    I’m in no way affiliated with any party involved but have spent a bit of time informing myself.

    1. Cian

      The accuracy rates (worldwide, using best practice) are actually only 75%: if a woman has cervical cancer and gets a smear test there is a 1 in 4 chance it will not be detected.

  4. Dr.Fart

    a confused ivan yates in the middle of it all, thinks they’re attacking people for suing, jumps onboard before fully understanding. ‘what what? b b but i thougt we were attacking regular, innocent people in defense of upper classes?”

  5. f_lawless

    Grimes has a history of this kind of behaviour. This insightful critique of his character is worth a read:

    A couple of quotes:
    “Given the hostility with which he derides people who don’t agree with him, and given that the people who agree with him would agree regardless, I would suggest that – if anything – DRG has had a net negative effect in developing peoples’ trust in science. So, here we have a scientist who is awarded a prize for writing articles which are in the interests of Big Industry, yet who actually erodes and toxifies public engagement with science. ..”

    “DRG’s public identity and role is a false narrative based upon one logical non-sequitur piled on top of another which, unfortunately, makes him feel self-entitled to act out the narcissistic dysfunction of seeing oneself as both victim and hero – a dysfunction which today increasingly erupts forth from the toxic epicentre at the intersection of twitter, Facebook and the corporately-owned online media. Out of hundreds or even thousands of criticisms from the public, DRG fails to develop an internal witness or ‘Daemon’ to self-reflect on his behaviour and errors in scientific thinking. Simultaneously, he accepts praise for being open to criticism and self-correction. Bizarre behaviour. It is the grandiosity of a psychopath, and this personality disorder is of heightened prevalence in some professions – such as media. “

    1. White Dove

      Grimes has to bear some responsibility for setting off an attack on Vicky online – incessant tweeting from others, see thread here.


      Commenters on the thread included a lady – well known as an opponent of ‘pseudoscience’ and other matters generally, I shall say no more – who actually rang the Hyberbaric in Strand Street as a result of Grimes’ tweet.

      My dad attended the Hyberbaric for bleeding after radiation therapy and had great results, it has not only cleared his bleeding but given him a new lease of life. My mum also used it after kidney cancer and loss of a kidney and she had a very positive experience. They are both doing very well in their 70s and have regained their energy and colour and so far no cancer spread.

      I would find tweets like the above hard to deal with in the best of health I am not surprised Vicky shut down her twitter. I

      Both Grimes and this other lady who contacted the Hyperbaric feature regularly in the media, they are given lots of airtime!

      1. Ponyboy

        The same old narrative… an ordinary person/outsider questions the establishment. They get public support. Then those who propagate the establishment view attack them. Subconscious or conscious jealousy? Just jealousy, or doing the establishment bidding in taking that person ‘down a peg or two’. Only the attackers know. Someone should ask Grimes maybe.

        When I was a young lad I’d walk down O’Connell Street on the way to school Lots of abuse to a primary school kid walking down that street in the 1950s. Only way to deal with it was to ignore them. Best thing to do with the likes of the crowd on that thread. And turn off those who feature them.

        Twitter is great in showing how the people featured in the media as knowing it all are highly flawed. I won’t be putting Grimes’ book on my Christmas list. But I might be asking my grandkids to book me a session at that oxygen place.

        What is science anyway? A human construct, often wrong. There is more in this world than we know. And people who are absolutely certain about things are absolutely certain to be wrong more often than not….

        Take a break Vicky, and come back stronger. But don’t give up. You’re making such a difference to all of us.

      2. :-Joe

        +100% – Wannabe media personalities, slaves to populism, corrupt profiteering at any consequence and narcissistic eejits all around us…

        Vicky Phelan is better off without twitter and probably should just communicate and publish her thoughts and opinions officially through her own personal website, podacsts or traditional live radio and official statements.
        -Until a better system is adopted than these silly-con valley narcisissistic pschotic fruit machines encouraging group think for profit from selling junk.


    2. :-Joe

      +100% – Perhaps a bit harsh but still very interesting… cheers!

      Isn’t it at least a bit obvious he’s possibly just another narcissist trying to flog a book or build a career in the media and become a go-to celebrity doc? Despite being a doctor, he looks a bit too young to take seriously on life advice, let alone medical or scientific truths but maybe I’m too skeptical or even ageist?..


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