A cancer specialist has said a High Court judgment in the case of a terminally ill Limerick woman could have a "major impact" on how screening programmes are delivered.

Professor Donal Brennan was referring to Judge Kevin Cross' judgment which said that screeners should not give the all clear, unless they have "absolute confidence" that a sample is clear.

The judgment was made in the case of Ruth Morrissey, who successfully sued the Health Service Executive and two laboratories, Quest Diagnostics and Medlab Pathology, over the misreading of her cervical smear tests and the failure to tell her about it. 

The 37-year-old Limerick woman and her husband were awarded damages in the sum of €2.1m in the High Court on Friday.  

Speaking on RTÉ's This Week, Professor Brennan said "one of the important things to remember is that there's very little that's absolute in medicine".

He said if the principle of absolute certainty is applied, it would lead to a large number of additional testing, that could lead to patients being harmed in the long-term by over-investigation or over-treatment.

He said women may face medical interventions that they do not need, including having unnecessary hysterectomies. 

Barrister Paul Anthony McDermott said this judgment was "probably the most important judgment in medical law in decades", and that the standard of absolute certainty is now the law.


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Smear test labs are 'looking at somebody's life', says Ruth Morrissey