Symphysiotomy group says demands ignored

Reilly proposes mediation with an appointed judge

Demands by women who had symphysiotomies have met "a brick wall wrapped in cotton wool" during a meeting with Minister for Health James Reilly, a group representing the women has said.

Dr Reilly wanted the group to agree to a redress scheme that they would not submit to, said Marie O'Connor, chairwoman of Survivors of Symphysiotomy.

But two other groups that met the Minister said they were pleased with the outcome and supported his proposal for mediation rather than litigation.

Survivors of Symphysiotomy wants a legal settlement with the hospitals that performed the operations which should give the more than 200 women affected €250,000 to €450,000 compensation, depending on their injuries. But to ensure women are not precluded from taking cases or having their cases delayed, it wants the Minister to lift the statute of limitations, which says a case must be taken within two years.

“The Minister looked for us to submit to a Magdalene-type redress scheme. We refuse to surrender. We have seen how the Magdalenes such as Bethany Home survivors have been shafted. We won’t go down that route,” said Ms O’Connor, referring to the compensation scheme set up for survivors of the Magdalene laundries.

A spokesman for the Minister said he would write to the Attorney General to see if the statute could be lifted for the women. His legal advice so far said it could not be done, he added.

The Minister suggested appointing a judge who could mediate between the women and the hospitals. “He believes mediation will be a route that could provide a situation where closure could be achieved on this,” said the spokesman.

Patient Focus and SOS Ltd, which also represent women who had symphysiotomies, said they supported the Minister's proposal.

Symphysiotomy was a procedure carried out on mothers before or after labour. Many of the women now suffer from incontinence, prolapsed organs, walking difficulties and aches.