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Cancer lab will join HSE in Supreme Court appeal over Ruth Morrissey case

Independent.ie logo Independent.ie 18/06/2019 Eilish O'Regan
a group of people posing for the camera: Battle: Ruth Morrissey has spent five of the six weeks since her High Court case in a hospice. Photo: Collins Courts Battle: Ruth Morrissey has spent five of the six weeks since her High Court case in a hospice. Photo: Collins Courts

Terminally ill Ruth Morrissey is facing a lengthy Supreme Court challenge to her High Court case as one of the laboratories she successfully sued will join the HSE in lodging an appeal today.

Ms Morrissey (37), a Limerick mother of one who has advanced cervical cancer after getting wrong smear test results, faces the disputing of key aspects of the court ruling handed down in her case.

The State Claims Agency lodged its Supreme Court appeal yesterday and will serve legal papers today. Medlab, a lab based in Dublin, will also notify the Supreme Court it is mounting a challenge today.

A second lab, Quest, has previously said it also intended to appeal. Ms Morrissey's solicitor, Cian O'Carroll, told Health Minister Simon Harris she is "frightened" her €2.1m award will be jeopardised by the appeal.

The State Claims Agency, which is taking the Supreme Court case on behalf of the HSE, said the appeal would confine itself to the legal aspects and not the award.

Ms Morrissey, who has spent five of the last six weeks since her case in a hospice, was deeply upset at finding out through a Sunday newspaper that the HSE was going to the Supreme Court.

The HSE yesterday refused to say when its officials were informed of the appeal and said it was a matter for the State Claims Agency to answer.

A spokeswoman for Health Minister Simon Harris said: "The State Claims Agency did not confirm its intention to appeal until Sunday and it did so in response to media queries.

"The minister had previously acknowledged the likelihood of appeal and his wish to find a way to protect Ms Morrissey in such an event. He said this as far back as May 9.

"He is glad to see the State Claims Agency has confirmed it will not appeal the award. He has always been mindful to remember Ms Morrissey and her family are at the centre of this."

Mr O'Carroll accused the minister of "looking for political cover" and questioned why he was distancing himself from the decision when he spoke about it on television on Sunday, before Ms Morrissey was told.

The appeal will centre on the ruling by Judge Kevin Cross that lab screeners should have "absolute confidence" a test result has no abnormalities before passing it as clear.

It will also question his other assertion that liability ultimately rests with the HSE.

Meanwhile, Mr Harris will bring the heads of the Bill setting up a tribunal where women and families can bring cases against CervicalCheck.

It will be in private unless otherwise requested and is aimed at being a less adversarial alternative to the High Court. The standard of proof will be the same as the High Court.

It will facilitate "restoration of trust meetings" allowing the women, or next of kin, to discuss their experiences in relation to CervicalCheck.

The content will not be used in any legal proceedings but aims to offer those affected the opportunity to discuss their experiences.

A report on these matters can be sent to the minister and it can make recommendations for him to consider. The tribunal, chaired by Ms Justice Mary Irvine, will be optional.

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