Symphysiotomy test case ends in victory

A 71-year-old woman, who claimed there was no justification for the symphysiotomy she underwent after the birth of her first baby more than 50 years ago, has settled her High Court action.

The settlement was announced on the third day of the hearing before Mr Justice Kevin Cross in the High Court.

The woman, who is from the Midlands, sued the Coombe Hospital, claiming there was no justification in any circumstances for performing a symphysiotomy on her following the safe delivery of her first child by caesarean section.

The case is the first of a number of cases before the courts being brought by women who had the procedure and was regarded as a test case.

Yesterday, Dr Ciaran Craven SC said the matter had been settled and could be struck out. He told the judge the case would not trouble the court further.

Mr Justice Kevin Cross welcomed the settlement and said it was a difficult case. He praised the courage of the woman who took the case and said the matter could have ended up in the Court of Appeal or the Supreme Court. Mr Justice Cross wished the woman all the best for the future.

Outside court, the woman, who wishes to remain anonymous, was flanked by her daughters as she said she was glad the case was over and wished all survivors of symphysiotomy well.

“I am a symphysiotomy survivor. I wish all survivors well. We can all learn from the past and move on,” she said as she thanked her family and legal team.

During her evidence to the court last week, the woman said she has not danced since the operation to break her pelvis after having her first baby at the age of 19 in 1963.

She told Mr Justice Kevin Cross she and her husband used to love going to dances and ceilidhs but after the procedure she never danced again. She also had pain and was incontinent.

“I have not been able to dance since,” she said.

Opening the case, senior counsel Matthias Kelly said the woman only found out about symphysiostomy from a television show in 2012.

His side contended that the decision to carry out a symphysiotomy was unacceptable and unjustified after the baby was safely delivered. In addition, the procedure was never discussed with the woman.

The Coombe Hospital claimed the proceedings were statute-barred and denied all claims.

In evidence, the woman, who went on to have other children, said she had been transferred to the Coombe Hospital to have her baby. She was brought to theatre for a caesarean and when she woke she was not allowed out of bed and did not see her baby until the next day.

She said her mother had been told she had had a different delivery. She said it took her a long time to walk and she has not been able to dance since. She said she always had pain in her left hip, which continues to this day. On occasions, she said, she has fallen over.

She said she was watching Tonight with Vincent Browne on TV3 in 2012 when symphysiotomy came up for discussion.

“I had not heard the word before,” she said.

She said her daughter sent off for a form and they contacted a solicitor.

Survivors of Symphysiotomy welcomed the settlement. Chairwoman Marie O’Connor said this settlement represents a victory for the plaintiff, her family, her legal team, and members of the group.

“The settlement represents a defeat, not only for for the defendant hospital, the Coombe, but also for the Government, whose payment scheme was intended to head off litigation,” said Ms O’Connor.

“With up to 200 such actions being taken by our members, Survivors of Symphysiotomy looks forward to a successful resolution of this issue, with judgements/settlements well in excess of the Government’s utterly inadequate scheme.”

Woman’s pelvis broken without consultation following safe delivery by C-section


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