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Emma Mhic Mhathúna on €7.5m settlement: 'It makes a big difference for all women'

The terminally ill mother-of-five settled her case against the HSE and Quest Diagnostics.

LAST UPDATE | 29 Jun 2018

30/5/2018 Cervical Cancer Controversies Health Service Executive Scandals Protests

KERRY WOMAN EMMA Mhic Mhathúna has given her reaction after agreeing to a €7.5 million settlement over her incorrect smear test results.

Mhic Mhathúna and Vicky Phelan have been spearheading the questions arising from the CervicalCheck scandal, which was brought to light after another High Court settlement at the end of April.

That was Phelan’s case, who settled her High Court action against the US laboratory who handled her smear tests. That settlement was worth €2.5million.

The now-terminally ill mother-of-five had launched legal action against the HSE and Quest Diagnostics, the US-based company that analysed her smear test results.

As part of the settlement, the HSE admitted liability for failing to disclose the findings of the audit while Quest admitted liability for misreading the smears, RTÉ reported.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Six One News this evening, Mhic Mhathúna said that the amount she was awarded was significant for a number of reasons.

“It makes a big difference for all women because it’s a significant amount and it’s a kick in the profit of Quest, and they’re not going to like that, and it makes more sense to read the smear tests properly than to be shelling out a lot of money.”

She said that she had been offered lower figures. but after discussions with her family, they decided to go for a higher settlement of €7.5 million.

So it means a lot for me and for them in the sense that we matter – if I hadn’t have spoken up where would we be today?

She said that her heartfelt Morning Ireland interview was on the 12 May – now it was the 29 June and she had secured €7.5 million.

She said that she had been “ready” to take on the court case if it had gone ahead, and that she was even “a bit disappointed” they didn’t try to take her on.

“Everyone can try and be pushed over, but they knew that wasn’t going to happen [with me],” she said.

She said that the dress she chose to wear to court today had a special significance.

“My sons picked it out for me, it’s a red gown with a train, it’s not my style at all, I’m real Aran island jumpers and leggings. But for me it was to show how confident I am going in here and I’m ready and I didn’t belong in there in the first place and if I’m going to be brought into an arena I’m going to dress for the occasion and wear what I like.

In response to the settlement, the State Claims Agency issued the following statement:

This case, the successful result of which was reported to the High Court today, was resolved in accordance with the principles outlined by the government last month, which focus on expediting resolution of all cases in a sensitive manner, working co-operatively with the co-defendant laboratories, utilising mediation and placing a high priority on treating people with dignity and compassion.
The SCA fully engaged with the Laboratory and its legal teams in this case, working co-operatively to facilitate the earliest resolution and to avoid the case proceeding to trial.

It said that proceedings had begun on 23 May, it had offered mediation on the 1 June, and that a settlement was reached yesterday, 28 June.


Mhic Mhathúna was diagnosed with cervical cancer in 2016, after a number of smear tests results returned as normal.

As of last month, the HSE had not yet admitted full liability in the case.

On the back of being one of those women directly affected by the scandal, Mhic Mhathúna has become a vocal campaigner for justice and accountability for those impacted. The government has since set up an independent inquiry into the controversy.

Speaking on RTÉ’s The Late Late Show in May, Mhic Mhathuna said she was glad the government is listening to her but that there have been problems in the health service for years.

“Talk is cheap. When you’re back is to the wall you’ll say anything. I’m glad they’re listening to me, it’s unfortunate that it’s taken my life for them to listen to me,” she said.

The whole general public has been saying for years to the government that we’re not being taken care of. We’re on list for wheelchairs, or hearing tests.

The CervicalCheck controversy came into the public eye when Vicky Phelan, whose cervical cancer is now terminal, settled a High Court action against the HSE and the US laboratory tasked with reviewing one of her smears.

Phelan and Mhic Mhathúna are just two of a number of women and their families now taking cases against the HSE.

At least 18 women whose smear tests were highlighted during an audit have since died, while 209 women had smear tests with abnormal results that weren’t flagged.

The government’s inquiry will examine details of the non-disclosure of information from Cervical Check audits to patients and what various parties, including the HSE and the Department of Health, knew and when they knew it.

It will also examine the tendering, contracting and operation of the labs contracted by Cervical Check.

A separate strand of the examination will review the screening tests of all the women who have developed cervical cancer who participated in the screening programme since it was established (more details on the probe here).

With reporting from Daragh Brophy

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