Man, whose wife died of cervical cancer, tells of anger when he settles the case

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A man whose wife died of cervical cancer over five years ago told a judge how CervicalCheck visited her in the hospital and asked her not to make her case public.

“They said she was the only one, then it happened to Vicky Phelan,” Cathal Curtis told Judge Paul Coffey on Tuesday.

Mr Curtis spoke as he settled the lawsuit brought by his wife Michelle Silke Curtis for allegedly misinterpreting four of their smears. Silke Curtis, a nurse and mother of two, was 45 years old when she died in 2016, one year after being diagnosed with stage 4 cervical cancer.

The comparison against the HSE, two laboratories and a family doctor takes place without acknowledgment of liability.

Curtis family attorney Oonah McCrann SC with Sara Antoniotti BL, hired by attorney Valerie Corcoran, told the court the case contained a “catalog of tragic mistakes”.

The attorney said it was a source of tremendous concern to Silke Curtis that her case was not closed before her death.

Mr Curtis told the judge that he was “quite offended” by the defendants’ behavior. He said it took more than five years to get to that point. He said the father of Mrs. Silke Curtis died 10 weeks after her, with the shock of the diagnosis “it broke his heart”.

Mr Curtis said he was angry it took him four years to be told that a US laboratory had tested some of his wife’s swab tests.

He said he had problems as a single parent for his daughters Annie and Sarah.

Mr. Curtis of Oranmore, Co. Galway had sued HSE, Medlab Pathology Ltd, located in Sandyford Business Park, Dublin; US Laboratory Clinical Pathology Laboratories Inc., located in Austin, Texas, and GP Saber Elsafty of Cappagh Road Surgery, Cappagh Road, Galway.

The case related to four cervical swabs taken between 2010 and 2012 that were allegedly misinterpreted and misreported.

It was alleged that Ms. Silke Curtis had a smear test in September 2007 and, unbeknownst to her, the sample was reported as borderline with a hint that she should be referred. It was alleged that Dr. Elsafty had failed to inform Ms. Silke Curtis of the result or to advise her and to follow up on the report.

Three years later, in November 2010, Ms. Silke Curtis was given a smear as part of the National Cervical Screening Program and this was sent to the MedLab laboratory for examination.

Atypical squamous cell carcinoma has been reported to be present, with a follow-up smear recommended for six months.

In May 2011, Ms. Silke Curtis had a repeated smear that was reported negative by MedLab, but based on the previous abnormal result, she was advised to have another test in six months. In November 2011, she had another repeat smear, which was also reported negative by MedLab, and a repeat smear was recommended for six months.

In their Statement of Defense in 2019, three years after the death of Ms. Silke Curtis, HSE and Medlab announced that the samples taken in November 2010, May 2011 and November 2011 were interpreted and reported by the American Clinical Pathology Laboratories (CPL) Texas based.

All claims were denied by all of the defendants.

In September 2012, Ms. Silke Curtis had another new cervical smear, which was also negative, and she was informed by letter that her next routine smear would be in three to five years. Three years later, in June 2015, she was diagnosed with a cervical tumor.


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