Cancer-hit women to be given IVF and adoption guidance


REPORT: Dr Gabriel Scally
REPORT: Dr Gabriel Scally

Maeve Sheehan

The health service and the Department of Health will help women harmed by the CervicalCheck crisis with guidance on adoption.

Minutes of the Department’s CervicalCheck steering group note that some “women are seeking guidance on adoption” while others are querying whether IVF treatment will be covered by the supports package.

The Health Service Executive is liaising with the child and family agency, Tusla, to facilitate those women who are considering adoption in establishing contact with it, according to the minutes.

The Department of Health “agreed to liaise with Department of Children to further assist in establishing contact”, the minutes state.

The steering committee, which includes two patient representatives, Stephen Teap, who lost his wife, and Lorraine Walsh, is tasked with making sure recommendations relating to CervicalCheck are followed through.

Ms Walsh, one of the 221 women who received incorrect smear tests, has spoken of her own battles to try to preserve her fertility and her desperation to become a mother.

The minutes, from a meeting on August 23, also state that women who have started legal cases “have been advised by their solicitor not to take part in a review of slides by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists”.

RCOG is examining 3,000 smear tests to determine, wherever possible, whether there were failures to prevent women’s cancers or to intervene earlier. The minutes state: “The solicitor’s concerns include the non-availability of the slides to women and their representatives while the review is underway, the perceived benefit to the woman of the RCOG review, and some perceived confusion in relation to the protocol governing release of slides to women.”

The HSE identified 221 women whose smear tests were audited after they were diagnosed with cancer, and were found to have been misread. The women were not told about the existence of the audit, or the results.

The Scally Report published last week referenced the damage and hurt caused to many of the women and their families, while expressing his confidence in the cancer screening programme.

Its 50 recommendations include facilitating meetings between the medical profession and the women and families who were impacted by CervicalCheck. Dr Scally said in his view the manner in which they were eventually told of their situation “varied from unsatisfactory and inappropriate to damaging, hurtful and offensive”.

Stephen McMahon, of the Irish Patients’ Association, which helped set to set up a support group for CervicalCheck women and families, said it is important the meetings proposed by Scally should go ahead. “The patient can no longer be ignored, by consultant, administrator, policy maker or indeed politician,” he said.

The Health Service Executive this weekend said it remains committed to a “process of accountability” for any staff member who may have a case to answer in relation to the crisis and is engaging with the Department of Health about progressing that in the context of a proposed Commission of Investigation or any alternative…”

Sunday Independent

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