It is absolutely shocking in 2018 that we have another case where information was not given to patients
BTSB was warned of the possibility of contaminated blood in circulation on at least two occasions, it failed to raise the alarm and warn those who had been injected. They were kept in the dark.
Orla O’Connor, chief executive of the National Women’s Council, says: “It is absolutely shocking in 2018 that we have another case where information was not given to patients.
“It is incredible that once again women were not told of the consequences of mistakes.”
The culture of secrecy was underscored when an attempt at mediation was made in the case of Vicky Phelan. She said she was asked to sign a confidentiality agreement.
She was adamant that she would not sign any gagging clause, because she wanted what happened to her to be exposed.
The State Claims Agency, which handles negligence cases for the HSE, said the request for confidentiality came from the US laboratory that had been subcontracted to assess tests.
However, following the Phelan case and that of the many other women who were kept in the dark about their tests, it is hard avoid the conclusion that some of those in authority would rather defend the State establishment — rather than the public interest, and in particular the women affected.
There seemed to be a reluctance to pass on the test results, and clinicians were even told that in some cases, discussion of the results with patients “could do more harm than good”. And if a patient died, the details could just be recorded on the file.
The State Claims Agency — which is dealing with 10 active cases connected to the controversy — issued a statement this week stating that it does not intend to fully defend similar cases to that of Vicky Phelan, where the State is substantially responsible. However, those words will ring hollow to the many women who have had to take legal action over HSE blunders, and have had their claims contested.
Caoimhe Haughey, a solicitor who handles medical negligence cases involving the HSE, tells Review: “My experience of dealing with these cases is that it is a nightmare. Everything is fought tooth and nail. Clients are always very nervous about how much it is going to cost to take action and how long it is going to take.
“The system is set up in order to frighten people from taking action,” says the Dublin solicitor.
The State Claims Agency insisted this week that in cases of medical negligence, its policy was to admit liability as soon as medical evidence indicates that there has been a breach of duty.
But Caoimhe Haughey disputed this, and describes the agency’s claim as “disingenuous” and “utterly untrue”.
“Even if I have a medical report that states that there is a clear medical case, if they have a medical report that says there isn’t a case, they fight on.”
The solicitor says it can be difficult to gain