Cervical cancer campaigner Vicky Phelan dies aged 48

Cervical cancer campaigner Vicky Phelan has died.

The 48 year old mother of two died in the early hours of this morning at Milford Hospice in Limerick.

Ms Phelan’s legal case against the HSE and a US based laboratory exposed the CervicalCheck scandal.


Ms Phelan had a smear test in 2011, the results showed no abnormalities. Three years later she was diagnosed with cervical cancer.

In 2018, she settled a High Court action for €2.5m with the US based laboratory, without an admission of liability.

Ms Phelan courageously refused to sign a non-disclosure agreement which would have meant her case would not have went public, her bravery prompted other women to come forward too.

Hundreds of Irish women were given incorrect negative smear test results, many of them only finding out years later that their results were positive.

Despite her terminal cervical cancer diagnosis, Ms Phelan actively campaigned for better healthcare and accountability when mistakes are made in Ireland’s healthcare system.

Her tireless campaigning led the government to commission the Scally investigation into the controversy and led to a State apology.



“I think she was a woman of extraordinary courage and integrity who stood up for the women of Ireland” said Taoiseach Micheal Martin in tribute to Vicky Phelan on RTE Radio 1 this morning.

Sinn Féin Leader Mary Lou McDonald tweeted a tribute which said:

“Ní Bheidh A Leithéid Ann Arís. Vicky Phelan, Mother, Daughter, Sister, Champion of Women, Campaigner who took on the State and won. Rest in Peace.”

Political correspondent and Sunday Times journalist Aoife Moore said:

“Every woman in Ireland owes Vicky a debt of gratitude. We are a better country for her being in it. This didn’t have to happen and I am devastated that it did. Rest in peace, Vicky.”


A moving documentary about her life, ‘Vicky’ was released last month and Ms Phelan was awarded the freedom of Limerick earlier this year.

Ms Phelan wrote a memoir ‘Overcoming’ in 2019, which became the An Post Book of the Year. She was also named as one of the BBC’s 100 women in 2018.

Last month her friend and fellow CervicalCheck campaigner Lynsey Bennett also died at the age of 34.


(Photo courtesy of RTÉ)

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