CervicalCheck victim’s death reminder of seriousness of problem – report author

The author of a report into the Irish cervical cancer screening controversy has said the death of one of the most high-profile women affected by the scandal serves as a timely reminder of the seriousness of the problem.

Dr Gabriel Scally said he hoped cervical cancer would become an increasingly rare event in the next decade and hoped that he would never see deaths like these again in his lifetime.

Dr Scally was questioned on the findings of his scoping report at a parliamentary committee meeting on Wednesday ahead of the funeral mass of the late Emma Mhic Mhathuna.

Ms Mhic Mhathuna, 37, who died on Sunday
Ms Mhic Mhathuna, 37, died on Sunday (Brian Lawless/PA)

A minute’s silence was held at the meeting as a mark of respect for Ms Mhic Mhathuna and the more than 200 other women screened through CervicalCheck who were affected by incorrect smear test results.

The 37-year-old mother-of-five died on Sunday. Her funeral was due to pass by Leinster House, Government Buildings, and the Department of Health on Wednesday afternoon.

The flag over Dublin’s Government Buildings was lowered to half-mast on the instruction of Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.

At the meeting, Dr Scally said he believed a compensation scheme needed to be considered for women who were failed by cancer screening.

“If they’re failed by that through genuine error then I think there should be a mechanism put in place to deal with that,” he said.

“I would hope that’s what Justice Meenan would be considering, one of the things that he might consider doing but that’s outside the remit of our report.”

Dr Scally said the open disclosure guidelines that were in place were “very seriously deficient”.

“It was the kind of policy where clinicians were encouraged to disclose if the clinicians wanted to disclose but the guidelines gave them every chance of not disclosing,” Dr Scally said.

“It wasn’t really open disclosure at all.”

It was the first time, since the publication of the scoping inquiry last month, that Dr Scally has appeared in the Oireachtas to discuss the findings.

Ireland’s finance minister Paschal Donohoe in his budget day speech on Tuesday announced a further nine million euro would be allocated to the health service next year to fund some of the recommendations of the Scally Report.

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