All Posts Tagged: symphysiotomy injuries compensation

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.

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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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Symphysiotomy Injuries Compensation Awarded

A woman, who underwent a symphysiotomy procedure at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in 2000, has been awarded €591,297 symphysiotomy injuries compensation by the High Court.

Tracey Nelson, aged 45, from Navan in County Meath has the procedure prior to the delivery of her second child, when medical staff at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda failed to diagnose the symptoms of symphysis pubis dysfunction (SPD).

After many years suffering with the physical discomfort from the symphysiotomy, Tracey underwent the procedure in 2004 to stabilise her condition and again, in 2007, had to be fitted with a spinal cord stimulator – since when she has been practically free of pain.

However, as Tracey conveyed to Mr Justice Iarfhlaith O’Neill at the High Court, she has also suffered psychologically due to the negligence of the medical staff who did not fulfil their duty of care to manage her pregnancy.

Ms Nelson informed the court she had developed fibromyalgia – where she had constant pain in her muscles and joints – and as a result of this pain, started to drink alcohol heavily. This resulted in her marriage break up and, in turn, depression.

Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital did not admit liability for her injuries, but Mr Justice Iarfhlaith O’Neill ruled that he was content from the medical evidence there was a failure to diagnose SPD on February 2nd when Tracey attended the hospital complaining that she was suffering from pain in the pelvic area.

The judge said that he was in no doubt that the “primary cause” of Tracey´s physical and psychological injuries was the negligence of the HSE and “terrible consequences” that went with this. “I am quite satisfied that the failures in this regard fell substantially below the standard of care to be expected of doctors practising obstetrics in a maternity unit such as Our Lady of Lourdes in Drogheda,” he stated.

Awarding Tracey €591,297 in symphysiotomy injuries compensation, Mr Justice Iarfhlaith O’Neill said that he was also happy that the doctors and midwives who attended Ms Nelson were “oblivious” to her SPD condition and consequently took no precautions to avoid the risk of avoidable injury during the course of her labour.

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