High-profile victim of major cancer screening scandal dies aged 37

File photo dated 30/05/18 of Emma Mhic MhathSna, who was incorrectly told her smear test results were normal until she was diagnosed with cervical cancer in 2016
File photo dated 30/05/18 of Emma Mhic MhathSna, who was incorrectly told her smear test results were normal until she was diagnosed with cervical cancer in 2016

A high-profile victim of a major cancer-screening scandal in Ireland has died aged 37.

Emma Mhic Mhathuna was incorrectly told her smear test results were normal until she was diagnosed with cervical cancer in 2016.

The mother-of-five from Co Kerry’s death was announced on Sunday.

She was among 221 women with cervical cancer found to have received incorrect results during a clinical audit of past tests by the CervicalCheck screening programme.

Ms Mhic Mhathuna has said if she had been diagnosed when she should have in 2013, she would have survived.

In a moving recent interview with Irish broadcaster RTE, she recalled having to tell her children her illness was terminal and said she was worried her youngest, aged two, would grow up not remembering her.

She participated in a ceremonial part of Pope Francis’ Mass in Dublin this summer with her children, Natasha, Seamus, Mario, Oisin, and Donnacha.

The family settled a legal action against health chiefs for 7.5 million euros.

Ms Mhic Mhathuna has been involved in the campaign for accountability alongside other well-known activists like Vicky Phelan, who helped expose the controversy.

Ms Phelan told RTE: “There are five children left behind here, with the youngest only two.”

She added: “It is very upsetting for everybody, but I suppose in my case I am still dealing with terminal illness and it really brings it home... it is very difficult.”

Irish President Michael D Higgins said he was saddened.

He said: “When I met her and her children in May, I was greatly struck by her poise and bravery, in the midst of what was a very difficult time for her family and friends.

“On behalf of the people of Ireland, I send my condolences to her family, friends, the wider community in West Kerry, and to all those who have shared Ms. Mhic Mhathuna’s journey as she battled the disease.”

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said Ms Mhic Mhathuna did everybody a huge service with her advocacy for the HPV vaccine.

“Despite her own tragic experience, she consistently supported the screening programme and encouraged women to continue engaging with the service.

“I am determined that something positive should come from this tragedy, and it’s my objective to virtually eliminate cervical cancer in Ireland.”