Vicky Phelan – Action. Change. Accountability.

In 2008, the national cervical screening programme Cervical Check was established as a means to reduce the incidences of cervical cancer among women aged 25-60.

In 2017, Vicky Phelan is sitting in her consultant’s waiting room skimming over her medical record out of plain boredom. It is here she makes the cataclysmic discovery that sets in motion, a chain of events that will change the world for women across Ireland and abroad. Here lie the undisclosed audit results of an internal inquiry into the cervical programme and evidence of her inaccurate smear result from 2011. She had now been given a terminal diagnosis, realising that this might have been prevented if the original test had been read accurately.

She was unable to remain idle with the knowledge of this injustice and secrecy which has led to the preventable deaths of so many women. In 2018, Vicky battled the HSE and Quest Laboratories in the High Court. The case was settled but Vicky refused to sign a non-disclosure agreement ensuring that this information becomes available to the public. Her courageous decision not to stay silent unleashed a rollercoaster of events bringing national attention to the grave errors committed by the HSE and the Cervical Check programme.

At our Annual Parliament Meeting in November, we paid tribute to Vicky by substituting a minute’s silence for an emotional minute’s applause as a tribute to Vicky’s refusing to stay silent for herself and the women of Ireland.

She will be sadly missed by all but in particular her loving family. Our thoughts are with Vicky’s family, friends and all of the women she has and will continue to help.