Possibility of redress for women affected by symphysiotomy procedure

The Government has appointed a judge to assess the possibility of an ex gratia compensation scheme for the estimated 300 women who were affected by the barbaric symphysiotomy procedure carried in a number of Irish hospitals from the 1920s to the 1980s.

James Reilly, the health minister, has appointed Judge Yvonne Murphy to meet key parties, including survivors and their representative groups, insurance companies and the State Claims Agency to assess what would be a viable solution before reporting back to the minister in February.

“I am acutely aware of the age group of the ladies concerned . . . I want to see closure as quickly as possible and as a doctor and minister for health I deeply regret the harm that was done to these women by symphysiotomy” said Dr Reilly.

It appears the voluntary redress scheme, if implemented, would be similar to that devised by Judge John Quirke for the survivors of the Magdalene Laundries who will receive payments of between €11,500 and €100,000 each.

The minister said many of the symphysiotomies were carried out so long ago that some women were unaware of the doctor who carried out the procedure and he said, with this in mind, the Government was changing its position and would not lift the statute of limitations.

Dr Reilly said he was keen to ensure whatever funds were available were directed to the women who suffered and not legal costs.

Chairwoman of the Survivors of Symphysiotomy Marie O’Connor wants to see the statute of limitations removed for one year so survivors could take their cases to court. There were over 200 actions in the pipeline.

Dr Reilly say legal route was still an option for survivors but he wanted to encourage them to meet Judge Murphy. He said those who had already spoken to the previous Walsh probe would not have to go through the upset of retelling their stories if they chose not to.

The minister said adverts would be placed in papers over the coming weeks.


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