Symphysiotomy survivors seeking €450k damages

Group calls on Government to pass legislation to allow affected women to seek legal redress

Women taking part in a public demonstration held by the group Survivors of Symphysiotomy outside Leinster Houselast month. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

Women taking part in a public demonstration held by the group Survivors of Symphysiotomy outside Leinster Houselast month. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

 

Women who underwent symphysiotomies by having their pelvises unnecessarily broken during childbirth should be paid damages of up to €450,000, according to a group representing survivors.

The Survivors of Symphysiotomy (SoS) group has called on the Government to pass legislation before the summer which would allow women affected by the procedure to seek legal redress. It has proposed damages ranging from €250,000 for victims at the lower end of injuries up to €450,000 for women who were most grieviously injured.

Minister for Health James Reilly has said the Government will not oppose a cross-party Private Members Bill which would lift the state of limitations for up to 200 affected women. The Bill passed second stage in April but has not progressed since.

SoS accused Dr Reilly’s department of “long-fingering” the Bill and of progressing instead a redress scheme along the line of that offered to former residents of the Magdalene Laundries.

The Department of Health said today it had received and considered a final report on symphysiotomy by Prof Oonagh Walsh and would shortly make a recommendation to Dr Reilly on foot of it. A spokesman said he expected the Minister to bring a recommendation to Cabinet “in the next number of weeks”.

In recent weeks, another survivors’ organisation, SoS Ltd, supported by advocacy group Patient Focus, has met Dr Reilly about plans for a redress scheme. It favours the women, many of them now in the seventies and eighties, having the option of immediate access to a redress scheme.

However, SoS, which claims to represent the majority of the women, yesterday accused the other organisation of engaging in “pseudo-consultation” and of being an “opaque and unaccountable” entity.

A spokesman for SoS Ltd riposted by accusing the rival body of “clutching at straws” and acting in “desperation”. He said many of the women were “far too old” to engage in lengthy litigation and expressed optimism about the Walsh report and ensuing response from the Government.

Symphysiotomy was a procedure carried out on mothers before or after labour. It increased the size of the pelvic area to allow easier delivery of a baby. Many of the women who had the procedure suffer from incontinence, prolapsed organs, walking difficulties and chronic aches.

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