Today we honour Vicky Phelan on her first anniversary and pay tribute to all women, their families and friends who have been affected by cervical cancer. Vicky was of course a prominent figure in the CervicalCheck scandal, as she brought attention to the misdiagnosis and delayed treatment of multiple cervical cancer cases in Ireland. Her courageous fight for justice and her advocacy efforts had a profound impact on the healthcare system and Irish society as a whole.
This morning on Newstalk we heard from Vicky’s friend and fellow campaigner Stephen Teap, whose words struck a chord:
She had the “the courage to stand up and not only stand up and fight for yourself and for what you believe in, but also to represent others…
While she was a victim, she didn’t see herself as one; she was more of a fighter and I think that’s what we all admired so much of Vicky Phelan”
Stephen’s wife Irene had also tragically lost her life to cervical cancer in 2017 at the age of 37. Stephen and Vicky formed a special bond after he witnessed her strength in sharing her story for the first time on the steps of the Dublin Courthouse in April of 2018, saying she instantly became a “Rock of Support”.
Vicky became a rock of support for the entire nation in her bravery to persevere and expose the serious flaws in the screening process and communication between healthcare providers and patients. Recommendations of Dr. Gabriel Scally’s Report and significant efforts of the 221+ Campaign has resulted in reforms and changes to prevent similar incidents in the future. Widespread investigations and review of the cervical screening process prompted the creation of the Patient Safety Bill, a law that makes open disclosure a mandatory obligation of those charged with the care of a patient in the Irish health system. In addition, the processing of CervicalCheck samples have recently restarted in the National Cervical Screening Laboratory. Each of these major changes were sparked by the bravery of Vicky Phelan followed by Laura Brennan, Stephen Teap, Lorraine Walsh and so many other individuals who have been working tirelessly behind the scenes to protect the future of all women in Ireland.
Vicky was responsible for igniting a national conversation about women’s health, patient advocacy, and the importance of transparent and accountable healthcare systems. She highlighted the need for improved communication, better access to medical information, and increased awareness of the importance of early detection and prevention. It is important to note that cervical cancer can affect women at any age and it is worthwhile to encourage the women in your life to get checked. Today, we felt it was essential to celebrate Vicky’s transformative accomplishments achieved in such a short time and to emphasise the importance of speaking up and speaking out.
“To be an activist is to speak. To be an advocate is to listen. Society can’t move forward without both.”
– Eva Marie Lewis