Symphysiotomy payouts denied in 185 cases

Third of applicants failed to get redress payments because they could not prove they had the procedure

Almost one third of women who applied to the symphysiotomy redress scheme were refused a payment as they could not prove they had the procedure.

A report on the scheme by the assessor, Judge Maureen Harding Clark, recommended payouts totalling around €34m to 400 women.

Of these, 216 received a payment of €50,000, 168 received €100,000, and just 15 women received the upper payment of €150,000. Some 185 women “were unable to establish their claim” but were assisted in trying to establish their case before being declared ineligible.

Four women died before any offer was made. One decided to reject the offer and to continue with her action through litigation and one applicant died before the offer could be accepted.

Pubiotomy was frequently claimed but was established in only one case.

Judge Harding Clark said every applicant received “an individual, careful, and fair assessment” with some women receiving examinations from several experts. However, she pointed out that this was not to say that all statements and reports were accepted uncritically.

“Compassion did not overturn common sense when it was apparent that personal recollections were simply not corroborated by the contemporaneous medical records of the symphysiotomy delivery,” she said.

Judge Harding Clark said few applicants specifically identified their claimed disability, while very few medical records provided objective evidence of a named condition associated with the procedure.

“The evidence did not confirm that symphysiotomy inevitably leads to lifelong pain or disability or those symphysiotomy patients aged in a manner which was different to those of non-symphysiotomy women. The majority of applicants who underwent symphysiotomy made a good recovery and went on to have normal pregnancies and deliveries and to lead a full life. Most applicants had at least four normal deliveries after the symphysiotomy,” said the report.

Judge Harding Clark said that many of the applicants who did not undergo symphysiotomy nonetheless provided statements of “fairly harrowing memories of the operation and how their lives had been ruined”.

“I believe that prolonged and exhausting labour [common until the concept of managed labour was advocated in the late 1960s by Dr Kieran O’Driscoll at the NMH] and especially, if the delivery was by forceps was attributed to symphysiotomy,” she said.

Chairperson of Survivors of Symphysiotomy Marie O’Connor described the report as “an official whitewash” but Patient Focus thanked Judge Harding Clark “for her forensic approach to the issue and for debunking the more outrageous comments expressed on symphysiotomy”.

Most applicants got the baseline payment of €50,000. The scheme’s insistence on a paper trail discriminated against older women whose doctors were deceased and who were unable to produce the records required for disability payments.


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