Government Announce Scheme to Claim Compensation for a Symphysiotomy

The government has announced a scheme for women to claim compensation for a symphysiotomy – the damaging childbirth procedure that was conducted between the 1940s and the 1980s.

Subsequent to the government abandoning plans to create a window in the Statute of Limitations, a new scheme has been announced to enable the estimated 350 survivors of childbirth symphysiotomies and pubiotomies to claim compensation for a symphysiotomy.

The previous plan had to be scrapped after solicitors advised the government that opening a window in the Statute of Limitations would set a legal precedent which could be considered unlawful. The new scheme consists of payments based on consequences of undergoing the procedure.

  • Women who had a symphysiotomy but did not suffer any serious long term consequences will be entitled to €50,000 compensation.
  • Women who suffered a quantifiable injury as the result of a symphysiotomy procedure will receive €100,000 compensation.
  • Women who gave birth by Caesarean Section and then underwent a symphysiotomy will get €150,000 compensation.

Maureen Harding-Clark – a former High Court Judge – has been appointed by the government to assess each application for compensation and has the authority to extend the December 5th deadline for applications by a further 20 working days in exceptional circumstances.

Once an application has been assessed and an offer of compensation made, survivors have twenty days in which to accept the assessment or lodge an appeal. Under the terms of the scheme, the plaintiff must withdraw any claim for compensation for a symphysiotomy currently going through the High Court in order to receive the payment.

Marie O’Connor – chairwoman of Survivors of Symphysiotomy group – has criticised the scheme for its short time limit and said that it makes it “impossible for women to seek independent advice and to make a considered decision” within the time allowed. Currently, more than 150 High Court actions are in progress, with dates for two hearings already set.

There has also been criticism of the scheme from Mark Kelly – the Director of the Irish Council for Civil Liberties. Mr Kelly believes that the scheme falls short of what is required under Ireland´s human rights obligations on two counts – that it does not allow the victims to claim compensation for a symphysiotomy on an individual basis, and because the state has made no admission of liability.