On Tuesday 22nd October, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar apologised “for the humiliation, the disrespect and deceit” suffered by the women and families affected by the failures of the CervicalCheck scheme. He delivered a formal State apology for the “litany of failures” in the operation of the programme over the years and apologised for those “whose lives were shattered, whose lives were destroyed, and those whose lives could have been different”.
The 221+ Cervical Check Patient Support Group said the apology was a “watershed moment” and described it as “the first step in the process of rebuilding confidence in the capacity of the State to put the patient first”.
Non-disclosure of information to patients
Following the Taoiseach’s apology, Minister for Health Simon Harris appeared on RTÉ Radio One to apologise for not being able to reassure women and families affected by the failures in the Cervical Check programme. In particular Minister Harris commented on the non-disclosure of information in the Cervical Check audit to those affected.
Claims continue to be brought before the courts in relation to losses suffered by those who were affected by failures in the Cervical Check scheme and non-disclosure of information continues to be a contentious issue, not just within the CervicalCheck controversy, but within the wider healthcare system.
Mr Harris confirmed that following the CervicalCheck affair, the Patient Safety Bill is being brought to cabinet next month, which will require medical practitioners to comply with mandatory disclosure rules to patients about any information they ought to know. He confirmed that these rules will apply to “reportable events” such as any time something has gone wrong in relation to a patient’s care or wellbeing.
What will mandatory disclosure of information, as proposed in the Patient Safety Bill, mean for claims against practitioners and hospitals?
Under the current terms of the proposed Patient Safety Bill, where a health practitioner makes a mandatory open disclosure in accordance with the Civil Liabilities (Amendment) Act 2017, any information and/or apology made does not invalidate insurance, constitute admission of liability or fault, nor is it admissible in proceedings. Accordingly, Plaintiffs will still be required to collate independent expert evidence in order to bring a claim for medical negligence, even if the health practitioner or hospital apologises to them for deficiencies in their care where said apology is made in line with the Civil Liabilities (Amendment) Act 2017.
About the author, Mark Jones, Solicitor, Medical Negligence Team