Symphysiotomy survivors have demanded the resignation of Health Minister James Reilly after the Government refused to apologise over their suffering and insisted victims give up legal challenges in order to receive redress from a €34m fund.
Despite Taoiseach Enda Kenny branding the procedure “barbaric”, the Cabinet would not accept any State liability for its use from the mid-1940s to the mid-1980’. The redress scheme, to be administered by the State Claims Agency, is ex gratia, meaning no admission of liability is given.
Some 350 survivors still alive would receive between €50,000-€150,000 under the move. Around 100 women still alive, whose injuries from a symphysiotomy cleared within 18 months, would be entitled to €50,000. Some 240 women who suffered more complex injuries would receive €100,000, and 10 women who had the procedure after a caesarean section — a move the Supreme Court ruled was “indefensible” — would be eligible for €150,000.
Revelations regarding the number of symphysiotomies carried out in the Cork area could boost potential legal actions which the State may be involved in to 250, an independent review by Judge Yvonne Murphy estimates.
The Murphy report, released for the first time, states it learned that 96 symphysiotomies were carried out in the Cork area, with 62 occurring at St Finbarr’s Hospital, 33 at Erinnville Hospital, and the rest at an unidentified hospital.
The report notes that 31 freedom of information requests for hospital notes have been issued involving records held by Cork University Maternity Hospital and HSE South.
Judge Murphy estimates that general damages would be between €250,000- €275,000 for those with complex problems brought about by the procedure if successful in the courts.
However, the report states such legal cases could be “problematic”, and Judge Murphy recommended the €50,000-€150,000 ex gratia redress bands.
Judge Murphy said the State would be dragged into private legal cases due to lack of adequate insurance at a number of hospitals.
The Survivors of Symphysiotomy (SoS) group expressed outrage at the way Dr Reilly handled the announcement, stating: “This makes a mockery of consultation, and shows a determination on the minister’s part to ambush survivors. We are calling for his resignation.
“There has been no admission of wrongdoing by this Government. The official line that symphysiotomy was acceptable practice still stands. SoS will carefully consider the issue of compensation, but, for very many survivors, there is a much bigger issue: truth. The Government has never admitted these operations were negligent and they should never have been done.”
A second report by Oonagh Walsh into the procedure, which involves breaking the pelvis during childbirth, said its use reflected “a predominantly Catholic religious ethos”.
Dr Reilly expressed his “deep and profound regret” for the pain and suffering that the procedure caused to women.
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