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‘She didn’t even get an apology… She died before any of that could happen.’ Vicky Phelan pays tribute to Joan Lucey

Grandmother Joan Lucey (73) passed away at her home in Dingle, Co Kerry, on Friday after battling terminal cancer.

by Dominique McMullan
22nd Feb 2021
Vicky Phelan pays tribute to cervical cancer victim Joan Lucey and calls for Govt and HSE to accept responsibility

Joan Lucey has died just hours after the HSE and labs agreed to mediation in the CervicalCheck case.

A death notice posted by the family says she will be “sadly missed by her loving daughters Sinéad and Eileen, son Seán, sister Eileen, brother Seán, grandchildren Isobel, Jane and Fiadh, son in law Jonathan, niece, relatives and friends”.

Last week her solicitor Liam Reidy said that Ms Lucey was on her “deathbed” and was not sure she would live through the trial, due to begin tomorrow, on February 23. He claimed that the laboratories were refusing to engage in mediation until a third-party issue, unrelated to Ms Lucey’s case, was resolved.

Lucey begged for mediation to begin on her case with the HSE. She was suing the HSE and two laboratories for alleged misreadings of two cervical smear tests in 2011, which resulted in her missing a timely diagnosis and curative treatment.

It is not yet clear what this will mean for the legal proceedings but her children have vowed to continue her battle with the HSE and laboratories.

Ms Lucey had seven more smear tests over the following seven years after 2011, all of which showed up negative. She began suffering from fatigue and lower back pain in late 2018 and in 2019 was diagnosed with terminal cervical cancer.

Vicky Phelan tribute

In a video posted on the Facebook group Vicky’s Tribe Vicky said: “I was very upset and angry, actually, to wake up this morning to find out that Joan Lucey, another cervical cancer patient who had been taking a case to the High Court died before her case was heard.

“Joan’s family had actually been in touch with me to see if there was anything I could do or if I had any advice for them to try and get the case to mediation, because the HSE and one of the labs involved – which was also the same lab involved in my case CPL – were refusing to mediate in this poor woman’s case.

“Unfortunately they had agreed to mediate starting on Tuesday but it’s too late. Joan has now passed away.

“It’s a terrible indictment of our State. Our State has to accept a huge amount of responsibility in this, that they are responsible for this woman not having her case heard and settling and for her to be able to die in peace knowing that her family are provided for and that she got her day in court.

“She didn’t even get an apology or any admission of liability. She died before any of that could happen.”

Vicky added: “Our State systems like the State Claims Agency who are constantly telling us that they are always meditating and trying to mediate in the cases of women affected by CervicalCheck – that’s bulls**t, because look what’s just happened. This woman has died. That needs to be called out.”

Only course of action

Like the survivors of the Magdalene Laundries and the Mother and Baby Homes, the women who were failed by CervicalCheck don’t have the luxury of time. They want to do everything they can for their loved ones, choosing to secure their financial future rather than spend their last moments peacefully with family. 

Can’t Government understand that sacrifice?

At least 221 women developed cervical cancer after their smear tests showed up as false negatives. Some have already died and Government has been promising a redress scheme since 2018. A CervicalCheck tribunal was finally set up at the end of 2020 but it has yet to receive a single claim as, according to The Irish Times, the tribunal has yet to begin an outreach programme to inform the public of their purpose.

Instead, the burden continues to be placed on these women, who feel their only option is to go to court so that their families will, at the very least, be financially secure without them.

It’s outrageous. May Joan Lucey rest in peace.