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Stephen Teap welcomes 'great justice' for Ruth Morrissey but calls on Taoiseach to change 'adversarial process'

Cervical cancer campaigner Stephen Heap is calling on the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar to see if there is any way the State can step in and streamline the process under which cervical cancer victims have to take legal proceedings.

He was responding to the High Court award of €2.1m to Ruth Morrissey over the misreading of her smear test and failure to inform her.

She won her case against the HSE and two US laboratories in relation to the testing of her cervical smear slides in 2009 and 2012 in the landmark action relating to the CervicalCheck controversy.

Mr Teap said: “It's great justice just to see this process finally come to an end, Ruth's been going through this for the last nine months and I'm just delighted that she got justice at the very end of it.

“At the end of the day there are no winners here, Ruth still walks out of court terminally ill, but finally she can draw a line under this process and hopefully move on and spend some quality time with her daughter and her husband Paul."

The campaigner, who lost his wife Irene to cervical cancer, said that Ms Morrissey should not have had to go through such “an inhumane process” especially after the Taoiseach had said that no woman or family would end up in court.

He said: “We know now that that wasn't the case. We saw how Ruth was dragged through the High Court system.

"It's just such an inhumane process, the system doesn't take into consideration a man, woman or child or their health."

“We saw the different stages of Ruth's health throughout the last nine months and it's such a gruelling ordeal for her, for anyone who has to go through it. But today now Ruth got justice and also as well the HSE were found responsible for negligence for the screening programme also.

“That might change things going forward as well with the Tribunal being set up later on in the year might make things different.

Ruth Morrissey with her husband Paul, addressing the media outside the High Court in Dublin today. Photo: Leah Farrell / RollingNews.ie

“But at the end of the day it's still an adversarial process and every single one has to fight their own case individually. At this stage, given today's ruling, I'd be asking the Taoiseach to review his words again and see if there's any way the State can step in now on the back of this ruling that the court found the HSE having primary liability for that.”

Mr Teap said that campaigners still do not know how a Tribunal is going to operate.

He said: “A lot has happened today that needs to be reviewed, particularly now that the individuals don't have to take on the labs, that is just the HSE that we all need to take on. This is something that needs to be reviewed and I'd like to see the government at this point step in and see what they can do here.

“The country needs to step in here and take control of this and protect people like Ruth from having to go through this ordeal again, to having to prove negligence, making the process more streamlined and protecting the people from the public stage that we've seen Ruth go through the last few months, bringing very sick people up and down the country to the High Court having to stand in witness boxes and everything during treatment.

“It's a torturous process to go through even if you aren't sick, it's inhumane, I think at this stage while the Tribunal is being set up, it is an adversarial process, surely there's a way of reviewing this on the back now of today's judgement.”

Mr Teap welcomed the inclusion of Ms Morrissey’s husband Paul in the award.

“Paul is going through an awful lot as well. He has been by her side in all of this, getting some sort of recognition as well is important for him too,” he said.

He said that progress for campaigners has been very slow. “There's an awful lot of things going on, the main thing is supporting the women and families within the 221 support group and seeing this today will be upsetting for most.

“For a lot of people witnessing this trial over the last few weeks has also been upsetting, but at the end of the day, we are still in the middle of this debacle.

"I've always said this will never reach a conclusion until everybody who does have a claim has it settled and only then can we actually measure the whole scale of what went wrong here. It's not until we get to the end of this that we can really draw a line under this.”