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Government Launch Scheme for Women to Claim Symphysiotomy Compensation

The government has launched a scheme for women to claim symphysiotomy compensation for operations conducted without their consent or knowledge between the 1940s and the 1980s.

Almost twelve months after the government performed a U-turn on extending the Statute of Limitations in order that women who had undergone symphysiotomies and pubiotomies during childbirth could claim symphysiotomy compensation, a new scheme has been launched to compensate the estimated 350 survivors of the procedures.

The new scheme to claim symphysiotomy compensation consists of a three-tier program which will pay compensation to the survivors depending on the level of injury they sustained:

  • Women who underwent a symphysiotomy and did not suffer any long term consequences are entitled to claim €50,000.
  • Women who suffered a recorded disability as the result of a symphysiotomy operation will be able to recover €100,000
  • Women who underwent a symphysiotomy subsequent to giving birth by Caesarean Section are entitled to €150,000

Maureen Harding-Clark – a former High Court Judge – has been appointed to consider each claim and, to qualify to claim symphysiotomy compensation, survivors have to submit their application for compensation before Friday 5th December. Judge Harding has the authority to extend the deadline by a further 20 working days in exceptional circumstances.

Once a claim for symphysiotomy compensation has been considered and valued, survivors have twenty days in which to accept Judge Harding´s assessment. However, under the terms of the compensation scheme, in order to receive the payment, the plaintiff must withdraw from any High Court action against the state that is in progress.

Currently there are more than 150 High Court actions in progress and, according to Marie O’Connor – chairwoman of Survivors of Symphysiotomy group – dates for two hearings have already been set. Ms O´Connor is unhappy with the new scheme to claim symphysiotomy compensation and says that the short time limit for applications makes it “impossible for women to seek independent advice and to make a considered decision”.

There has also been opposition to the scheme from Mark Kelly – the Director of the Irish Council for Civil Liberties. Mr Kelly says that the scheme falls short of what is required under Ireland´s human rights obligations on two counts – that it does not address compensation on an individual basis, and that payments made under the scheme are made without admission of liability by the state.

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