Symphysiotomy survivors reject Government redress scheme

Patient Focus spokesman says it is a good scheme for women who do not want to go to court and just want to take the money and enjoy it

More than 80 per cent of a group representing some of the women subjected to the medical procedure symphysiotomy have voted to reject a Government redress scheme. The scheme, to be assessed by retired judge Maureen Harding Clark, offers between €50,000 and €150,000 to women who underwent the procedure in Irish hospitals, depending on the severity of their injuries.

In a statement yesterday, Survivors of Symphysiotomy said its members attended meetings held in Cork and Dublin at the weekend and 83 per cent voted to reject the scheme.

Chairwoman Marie O’Connor said the nature of a scheme meant “the Government is not to blame, the State did no wrong, these operations were acceptable” because the scheme offered “no accountability, no truth and no justice”.

She described the scheme as having “grossly discriminatory and utterly unjust aspects” including that it excludes women with dementia and those living abroad and penalises women who are less well off, those without records and those with psychological issues.


Patient Focus also held an information meeting for women on the scheme and said 60 symphysiotomy survivors attended to meet nine medical negligence solicitors, all of whom recommended the scheme.

Spokeswoman Cathriona Molloy said it was a good scheme for women who did not want to go to court and just wanted to take the money and enjoy it. “It is not adversarial and does not need the level of proof that is required in the courts,” she said. “We want people to have choice; some of these women are very elderly. If they want to go to court they should; if they don’t they should apply for the scheme.”

Symphysiotomy involved cutting the cartilage of a pregnant woman’s pubic bone to widen the birth canal. It was carried out on about 1,500 women between the 1920s and mid-1980s, about 350 of whom are thought to be alive to avail of the scheme. For many women it left permanent injuries such as incontinence, difficulty walking and chronic pain.

Fiona Gartland

Fiona Gartland

Fiona Gartland is a crime writer and former Irish Times journalist