Dublin South West TD, Seán Crowe, said the emerging scandal around the misdiagnosis of cervical cancer smear tests, and the response from Cervical Check, shows an appalling disregard for the health and wellbeing of vulnerable Irish citizens.
Teachta Seán Crowe said:
“The horrific story of Vicky Phelan’s missed cervical cancer diagnosis, and its subsequent escalation to terminal cervical cancer, is truly upsetting and deeply worrying. However, what compounds this unacceptable state of affairs is that it took three years for Ms Phelan to be officially informed of her misdiagnosis. This is an appalling disregard for the health and wellbeing of vulnerable Irish citizens.
“To not personally inform Ms Phelan of her know misdiagnosis for almost three years is unacceptable, but to keep that information from her until she became terminally ill and to then drag her and her family through the pressure of court proceedings as she fought for truth, demonstrates downright cruelty and malice.
“Furthermore, it is now believed that more and more women were identified in a 2014 audit of smear tests which were found to be incorrect.
“Documents that emerged from Ms Phelan’s case clearly show that doctors treating women who were wrongly given the all-clear from cancer were urged to ‘exercise their judgment’ on whether to tell them about the misdiagnosis.
“This is deplorable from Cervical Check. It should not be at the whim of a doctor to exercise their judgement on whether to inform a woman that her health is at risk, and even more so in the incidence of a misdiagnosis. Patients have the right to know and the Minister needs to intervene to make sure this is done.
“Cervical Check and the HSE have a duty to inform all the women affected and I understand they are now doing that, even if it is years later
“Ms Phelan’s case represents a complete failure of the system and for her to end up on the steps to the High Court to get answers, exposes the cruelty that often lies behind the system.
“Nobody is saying that a health service will be without human error, but when a mistake is made there should be an apology and the relevant parties officially informed as soon as reasonably possible. This clearly didn’t happen in this case
“It is appalling for cancer patients to be left in such instances and there needs to be a more transparent process when misdiagnosis is uncovered.
“Surely honesty, openness, transparency and compassion are integral to healthcare provision and the lack of these in this latest scandal needs to be addressed. At a minimum level we need to see structures put in place where this appalling approach of secrecy and silence is ended and patients are fully informed about their medical condition.”