I propose to take Questions Nos. 10 and 34 together. I thank Deputies Donnelly and O'Reilly for their important and timely questions. We began to discuss this issue last week and it is quite right and important that we keep it on the agenda in the House. On the State and lawyers, it is very important that the State accepts liability in regard to non-disclosure in any of these cases, does not contest the matter and has set up an ex gratia payment scheme.
My officials and I, in conjunction with the State Claims Agency and the Office of the Attorney General, are carefully studying the recent High Court judgment in the relevant case. It is important that there is careful legal analysis of the judgment as an input to the proper assessment of its implications for the health service. Many well-intentioned people have commented on it, but very few of them are legal experts, as I am not a legal expert.
My Department has received correspondence from the HSE which sets out its concerns relating to potential implications arising from the judgment for screening services in particular. I am aware that concerns have been publicly expressed by some in the clinical community in recent days.
I ask that those in leadership positions in the medical profession work with me and this House during this time as we reflect on the judgement and form a fuller understanding of any potential implications. This will give us the necessary time and space to consider what actions might be required. I want the clinical community to know that I, as Minister for Health, the Government and, I am sure, the Oireachtas are committed to addressing their concerns and that we will work with them to so do.
I am conscious that decisions in regard to this case will impact individual women as well as having wider implications. I wish to reassure women, as will all Members, that the Government and Oireachtas are committed to ensuring that our life-saving cancer screening programmes can continue to operate to a high standard. I have no doubt that objective is widely supported across the House.
There has been much recent comment on this case. On many occasions since the CervicalCheck debacle of more than a year ago, I, the Government, the Oireachtas, the media and many others have been accused of a knee- jerk response. Such accusations were made for good reasons by those who made them, including Opposition Deputies. Now is the time for us to take a deep breath and put forward a calm, cool and collected response on this issue. I am happy to work with Opposition Members on it.
I wish to get a sense of the legal implications. What does "absolute confidence" mean? The Deputies and I may think it means one thing, but that may not be its legal meaning. What approach is taken in other jurisdictions in such cases? Mr. Justice Cross in his judgment and comments in the High Court on Friday referenced the fact that other jurisdictions have this stipulation and he specifically referenced Britain in that regard. He stated that he does not believe he has added a new test but, rather, that this is the law as it stands. Many others have refuted that claim. Deputy Donnelly articulated it well last week in the House when he asked how one can have absolute confidence when there is always a degree of clinical judgment.
I am conscious that although the debate to date has been about screening, it could have wider implications, such as its impact on diagnostics and so on. I am happy to keep in close contact with Opposition spokespersons on health on this issue. Although I am not asking for a significant amount of time, I suggest that we take the next couple of weeks to determine legally what this means, to see if there is a need for the State to seek legal clarity and, if that is necessary, how the State can do so in a way that does not have an adverse impact on Ms Morrissey, which none of us wants.