All Posts Tagged: Compensation for Symphysiotomy Procedures

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”.

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Victims Claim Symphysiotomy was Medical Negligence

A spokesperson for the Survivors of Symphysiotomy has claimed that the group will not enter into mediation over compensation while the government fail to acknowledge that the practise of symphysiotomy was medical negligence.

Survivors of Symphysiotomy chair – Marie O´Connor – was speaking at an emergency general meeting convened in Dublin to discuss proposals from Minister for Health James Reilly that the support group should participate in a negotiated mediation to obtain compensation for survivors of the barbaric procedure, rather than take action through the courts.

In her address to the group, Ms O´Connor said that the proposed scheme is exploitative and they do not want to be involved in it – stating that the system proposed by James Reilly “seeks to buy their silence”. She claimed that Minister Reilly´s proposals were based on the draft findings of the government-commissioned Walsh Report, in which it was found that the majority of the symphysiotomy procedures that were carried out were “medically acceptable” under the circumstances.

Ms O´Connor argued that members of the group were betrayed by the medical professionals at the time and, by the government denying that symphysiotomy was medical negligence, the victims are also being denied access to the courts and a “fair and equitable” settlement of compensation for the pain and anguish the women suffered during and after undergoing a symphysiotomy procedure.

The group has requested compensation of between €250,000 and €450,000 for each survivor of the surgery, and has called on the government to move ahead with legislation first accepted in April to remove the Statute of Limitations which time-bars their eligibility to claim compensation for symphysiotomy medical negligence.

Two other survivor support groups – Patient Focus and SOS Ltd – have indicated that they are in favour of Minister Reilly´s proposals, saying it could be less traumatic and time consuming for the victims; however Ms O´Connor stated fervently that she did not want to see a Magdalene-type settlement, in which some survivors were offered as little as €11,500. “Victims will not allow themselves to be re-victimised by being forced to collude with the official line that symphysiotomy was acceptable medical practice,” she said.

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Private Members Bill will Allow Symphysiotomy Claims for Compensation

A Private Members Bill, proposed by Sinn Féin’s Health Spokesman Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin, last night passed through its second stage to allow symphysiotomy claims for compensation.

The bill, which intends to lift the Statute of Limitations for one year and enable victims of symphysiotomy procedures performed between 1940 and 1990 to claim compensation, will now go to committee stage while an independent study – the Walsh Report – is carried out to assess the future needs of the women who underwent the procedures.

Speaking in the Dáil, Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin said “Lifting the statute bar – unanimously recommended by the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice in June 2012 – would obviate procedural battles and ensure unfettered access for all to the courts. Judges here have no discretion in relation to the statute bar, as they do in other common law jurisdictions”.

In reply, Health Minister Dr James Reilly said he would not oppose the proposed legislation to allow symphysiotomy claims for compensation despite its “serious flaws”. He warned that although Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin’s bill might not achieve its objectives, the coalition did not want to send out the “wrong message” by opposing the proposed legislative changes.

Many of the surviving victims who underwent symphysiotomy procedures were in Leinster House to hear the proceedings, and they gave the Health Minister a round of applause when he concluded his speech by saying he would ensure closure for the survivors of symphysiotomy by the end of the year.

A spokesman for Minister Reilly later said that, in addition to accepting the Private Members Bill that seeks to remove the Statute of Limitations for victims of symphysiotomy and pubiotomy performed on them without medical justification, and allow symphysiotomy claims for compensation, the Government is also examining how best to meet the health and social needs of women affected.

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