Judge says terminally-ill Ruth Morrissey's fast-tracked case proceeding at 'slow speed of a tram'

Ruth Morrissey

Ruth Morrissey who is terminally ill with cervical cancer will have to return to the witness box at the High Court in the coming weeks.

The mother who began her legal action last July against the HSE and two US laboratories over the alleged misreading of two of her cervical smear slides taken under the CervicalCheck screening programme is to be cross-examined by lawyers for the HSE.

The 37-year-old woman who has at most two years to live has already given evidence twice before Mr Justice Kevin Cross in July and at the start of her resumed action two weeks ago.

Today, Patrick Hanratty SC for the HSE said it will be necessary to recall Ms Morrisey to court on the issue of alleged medical negligence.

The move came as Mr Justice Kevin Cross was told the young mother is very concerned about potential delays in her long-running action.

Her resumed action has taken evidence over 11 days having adjourned last July after hearing four days of evidence.

Jeremy Maher SC for Ms Morrisey said their instructions were that Ms Morrissey was very concerned about the potential delays in the defendant's case.

Mr Justice Cross said he did not want gaps between witnesses or the “ping pong” of expert reports and witnesses between the sides as the case moves into its third week at a resumed hearing.

The judge said the case which had initially been fast-tracked was now proceeding at “the slow speed of a tram.”

The judge, after hearing submissions, ruled he was not going to allow Quest Diagnostics to bring in another expert witness in the case.

Earlier, cytotechnologist Sandra Tan from the US who reviewed the 2009 and 2012 Ruth Morrissey slides last year, told the court when she reviewed Ms Morrisey’s 2009 Quest Diagnostics slide at 10 times magnification, it took her 15 seconds to find abnormality.

She said there was a large abnormal group of cells. Her conclusion, she said, was it was abnormal and should have been passed on to the pathologist.

After another examination of the slide in September 2018, she said she made the same findings.

Referring to Ruth Morrissey’s 2012 MedLab slide, she said there were enough atypical cells that it should have been passed on to a pathologist for review.

Ruth Morrissey and her husband Paul

Ruth Morrissey and her husband Paul Morrissey of Kylemore, Schoolhouse Road, Monaleen, Co. Limerick have sued the HSE and the US laboratory Quest Diagnostics Ireland Ltd with offices at Sir John Rogerson's Quay, Dublin along with Medlab Pathology Ltd with offices at Sandyford Business Park, Dublin 18.

It is claimed there was an alleged failure to correctly report and diagnose and there was an alleged misinterpretation of her smear samples taken in 2009 and 2012.

A situation it is claimed allegedly developed where Ms Morrissey’s cancer spread unidentified, unmonitored and untreated until she was diagnosed with cervical cancer in June 2014.

It is further claimed a review of the 2009 and 2012 smears took place in 2014 and 2015 with the results sent to Ms Morrissey's treating gynaecologist in 2016, but she was not told until May 2018 of those review results which showed her smears were reported incorrectly.

The HSE, the court has already heard, admitted it owed a duty of care to Ms Morrissey. The laboratories deny all claims.

The case before Mr Justice Kevin Cross continues on Tuesday.

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