The news on Sunday that Emma Mhic Mhathúna had lost her battle to cervical cancer was heartbreaking.
The 37-year-old mum of five from County Kerry was one of the women affected by the CervicalCheck controversy but, in her dying months, had given her precious time to campaign vigorously for changes to the system of reporting tests results and communicating those results back to affected patients.
She, despite her own twice-missed diagnosis, called on women to continue having regular smear tests and also to ensure their daughters were protected with the HPV vaccine.
Emma's remains leave her aunt's home at Foxbrook.
Emma was diagnosed with cervical cancer in 2016 and was told in April 2017 that a previous smear test that indicated no abnormalities was later found to be incorrect. US laboratory Quest Diagnostics admitted misreading her two cervical smear slides in 2010 and 2013.
Ms Mhic Mhathúna sued the HSE and Quest Diagnostics and was awarded €7.5 million last June.
There was a round of applause from bystanders as the coffin of Emma Mhic Mhanthuna was carried into the Pro Catherdral. More than a thousand people have packed into the church for the mass which is just getting underway @rtenews pic.twitter.com/4MqK8V7kKR— Samantha Libreri (@SamanthaLibreri) October 10, 2018
Her campaigning and that of others, including Limerick woman Vicky Phelan, resulted in a scoping inquiry into the failure of the CervicalCheck screening programme and the failure of doctors to tell women about a retrospective audit that showed smear tests were incorrectly interpreted, potentially preventing them from receiving earlier treatment. The inquiry, completed last month by Dr Gabriel Scally, made wide-ranging recommendations.
Of the group of 221 women affected, 19 have since died.
Emma Mhic Mhathúna’s funeral cortège is applauded outside Leinster House, following her funeral service at the Pro Cathedral.— Gavan Reilly (@gavreilly) October 10, 2018
She will stop at Government Buildings, Dept of Health, and Áras an Úachtaráin on the way to her burial in Maynooth. @VirginMediaNews pic.twitter.com/DUUhxTN6nR
In an interview on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland last May, Emma said, if her smear test had been read correctly in 2013, she would have had a fighting chance.
“That is what makes it so heartbreaking. I’m dying when I don’t need to die. And my children are going to be without me, and I’m going to be without them,” she said.“Now I’m going to miss out. And I don’t even know if my little baby is going to remember me.”
Emma’s children’s names are Natasha, James, Mario, Oisin and Donnacha. The eldest is 15 years old; while the baby Donnacha is just two.
This week they are burying their mother.
The public have lined the street to pay their respects to Emma Mhic Mhathúna pic.twitter.com/eNH53xMNBd— Kacey O'Riordan (@KaceyORiordan) October 10, 2018
It is a crying shame that this has happened. It is more than that, it is criminal.
Emma has certainly left a strong legacy of courage, not just to women, but to her beautiful children. The €7.5m settlement from the HSE will ensure they are well provided for, financially.
Locals in Ratoath form a guard of honour at the cemetery junction.
Tributes from the Taoiseach and the Minister for Health in the wake of her death ring hollow.
Health Minister Simon Harris has pledged to “work to build a programme worthy of women like Emma”.
The Government must now move to ensure that all recommendations of the Scally report are implemented, without delay.
The best way that we can remember Emma and the 18 other woman, whose test results were misdiagnosed and who subsequently died, is to ensure our mothers, daughters and sisters keep having regular smear tests; ensure our girls are vaccinated with the HPV vaccination and to live the best possible lives.
What Emma wouldn’t have given to have celebrated her 40th birthday with her family around her!