Symphysiotomy compensation refused to 53 women
Judge cites lack of evidence but support group says ‘impossible’ levels of proof sought
Marie O’Connor of Survivors of Symphysiotomy: claims one woman was asked for receipts for incontinence pads bought in the 1950s. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins
Fifty-three women who applied for up to €150,000 compensation under the State redress scheme for survivors of symphysiotomy have been ruled ineligible after it was established they did not undergo the procedure.
Maureen Harding Clark, the retired judge assessing the claims, said her work has proceeded slowly because of a dearth of supporting documentation to establish that a symphysiotomy was performed and significant disability resulted.
“Large bundles of medical records are being furnished which have little relevance to symphysiotomy and where the significant disability claimed is not identified,” she commented in a progress report.
Judge Harding Clark, who said there is some evidence of “selective presentation” of documentation, has warned she may impose a deadline for the furnishing of records as “the scheme does not have an unlimited life”.
The scheme was established by the Government to compensate women who underwent symphysiotomies, which involved cutting the pelvic bone to create more space during childbirth. Long-term effects for the women included impaired walking, chronic pain and incontinence. The scheme offers three categories of payment – €50,000, €100,000 and €150,000 – depending on the severity of injuries.
Survivors of Symphysiotomy, a group representing women who had the procedure, said the scheme sets an “impossible” level of proof.
“We have received reports from members that the scheme is demanding a 50-year paper trail of damage and health problems and [is] disregarding survivor testimony,” said spokeswoman Marie O’Connor.“If there were relevant records, they have long vanished. Medical record-keeping was poor 50 years ago and, the practice has been to destroy notes.”
Judge Harding Clark has suggested women make themselves available for medical examination by a gynaecologist and radiologist if reasonable efforts to locate documentary evidence are not successful.
Some 576 applications have been accepted by the scheme, more than originally expected. Of the 167 offers made so far, one has been rejected. Two-thirds of the 144 awards made have been for the lowest payment of €50,000.
Two of the awards are being made to the estates of applicants as the women died after accepting them.