Mixed Opinion over Judge Murphy´s Proposed Symphysiotomy Compensation Settlements

Judge Yvonne Murphy´s proposals for symphysiotomy compensation settlements are due to be heard by the Cabinet within the next few weeks, but already opinion is divided over whether they are good or bad for the survivors of the controversial childbirth procedure.

 Judge Murphy was asked to compile proposals for symphysiotomy compensation settlements last year, after the Government withdrew their support for a cross-party private members’ Bill that would have provided a window in the Statute of Limitations to allow the survivors to make their claims for symphysiotomy through the court system.

In order to make up for their policy reversal (due to potential legal challenges from insurance companies) the Government is looking to introduce an ex-gratia scheme of symphysiotomy compensation settlements similar to that agreed with the former residents of Magdalene laundries; however, the success of this proposal will also rely on the support of the insurance industry, as around 80 percent of the procedures were performed in private hospitals.

Symphysiotomy survivors are divided on whether the proposed symphysiotomy compensation settlements are appropriate – several hundred Magdalene claimants received payments ranging from €11,500 to €100,000. It is also not known whether awards of symphysiotomy compensation would be paid out in instalments or in a single lump sum, or if the estates of deceased women who be entitled for compensation.

Some survivors of the symphysiotomy procedure have indicated they would accept payments similar to the Magdalene laundry settlements with no admission of liability from the State. However, members of the Survivors of Symphysiotomy (SOS) group say that compensation settlements should be more in line with the award of €591,297 that was made to Tracy Nelson in a court hearing last year.

Spokesperson for the SOS group – Marie O´Connor – said “It’s not unreasonable to insist that cases are treated as medical negligence. These women have lifetimes of suffering and lost opportunities behind them. Whether it was horse-riding, gymnastics or gardening, they could never do it again”.