Majority of women agree to assist in smear test review

Ellen Fitzpatrick

19 women have passed away due to the CervicalCheck scandal that came to light earlier this year.

The majority of 94 per cent of women have agreed to a review of 3,000 smear tests carried out by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG).

Following the CervicalCheck scandal earlier this year, 1,300 letters were sent out asking if they would consent to this review, with 330 of these being returned by the end of that week.

Minister for Health, Simon Harris, has said that each woman who has had a cervical cancer diagnosis since 2008 will have their smear tests reviewed.

The review will be carried out by a team of cytologists from the RCOG in London. Over 1,300 letters were issued by the HSE, with them expecting the majority of the remaining letters to be issued or completed in the coming week, excluding any involving next-of-kin.

The Department of Health are working with the HSE to ensure that these letters are issued as soon as possible. The review is aiming to see if whether the original misread smear tests had an impact on treatment and outcome.

This review was initially aimed to be carried out in May but was delayed due to the issue of consent and a delay in women being contacted.

The government will continue “to support and facilitate RCOG and the HSE in progressing this review as expeditiously as possible, and to do so in a way that ensures quality, comprehensiveness and integrity of the results.”

This news came before the death of Emma Mhic Mhathúna, a woman at the centre of the CervicalCheck scandal, at the age of 37. Mhic Mhathúna was diagnosed in 2016 with cervical cancer three years after her smear test incorrectly resulted as normal.

The mother of five discovered she had cervical cancer after receiving incorrect results from two separate smear tests. Mhic Mhathúna died at University Hospital Kerry in Tralee on the morning of Sunday, October 7th, 2018.

She was told in May that the cancer was terminal and by August it had spread to her brain.

In a statement, her family said: “Emma, who battled her illness with great valour, passed away peacefully in the comfort of her family’s loving embrace.”

“We will miss Emma beyond words: her intellect, her love, her quick wit and infectious smile are irreplaceable to those closest to her in these difficult days,” they continued.

Mhic Mhathúna was one of 221 women affected by the CervicalCheck scandal, and the 19th who died from this, that occurred earlier this year.

Many were unaware that Cervical check had done internal reviews, confirming the wrong results.

The scandal came to light after Vicky Phelan, a mother from Limerick, took her case to the High Court in April after her diagnosis. It was then found the following month that the majority of these CervicalCheck internal reviews had not been passed on to the women affected and that they were completely unaware of this issue.

“It would make sense to check, check and re-check the smear test, rather than hand out the big cheque,” Mhic Mhathúna said about the scandal.

Ellen Fitzpatrick

Image credit: HSE