Symphysiotomy scheme time limit ‘is punitive’

Symphysiotomy survivors have urged the Government to lift the scheme’s "punitive" 20-day time limit to join up.

Welcoming criticisms made by the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC) of the Government’s scheme, Survivors of Symphysiotomy (SOS) called for the lifting of the scheme’s expiry date.

Maria O’Connor, the chairwoman of the group, which represents 400 women, said that IHREC chief commissioner Emily Logan identified the scheme’s key weaknesses, including its “oppressive and unprecedented time limits, and its waiver of legal rights”.

“Natural justice demands that the punitive expiry date of 20 working days be lifted immediately,” she said.

“Such a unprecedented and drastic deadline undermines women’s legal and constitutional rights. No provision exists for the scheme to be extended beyond 40 working days. It is at the Assessor’s discretion to accept late applications or late documentation post 20 days. There is no right of appeal.”

Ms O’Connor said the scheme had been “rigged” to ensure “hardly any woman will get more than €50,000, a sum widely seen as a pittance for lifelong disability” and that proving significant disability directly attributable to symphysiotomy was “impossible” within the current limit.

“While some hospitals continue to withhold records, those who cannot access them are now at risk under this scheme. It excludes survivors suffering from dementia, discriminates against less well off women (who cannot pay for independent medical reports), those living abroad those with knowledge issues and those with psychological difficulties,” she said.

Two other groups, Patient Focus and SOS Ltd have welcomed the scheme.

Health Minister Leo Varadkar has said he will discuss the possibility of extending the time limit for applications with the independent assessor.


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