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Options to Compensate Women for Symphysiotomy Injuries to be Investigated by Judge

Judge Yvonne Murphy has been appointed by the Government to investigate the options available to compensate women for the symphysiotomy injuries they sustained from the childbirth procedure.

Dr James Reilly – the Minister for Health – announced this week that Judge Yvonne Murphy has been appointed to investigate feasible options to compensate women for symphysiotomy injuries they sustained during the controversial childbirth procedure that took place in Irish hospitals between 1940 and 1990.

Judge Murphy´s appointment comes shortly after the government went back on a pledge to allow Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin´s Private Members Bill through the Dail unopposed – a Bill which would have created a one-year window in the Statute of Limitations and allowed around 300 women who underwent symphysiotomy operations to claim compensation.

The U-turn occurred after legal advisors warned the Government that the Bill would face legal challenges in passed – particularly from the insurance companies liable to compensate women for symphysiotomy injuries, who had already accused the Government of “moving the goalposts” on claims for personal injury compensation.

The judge has been asked to recommend a means to compensate women for symphysiotomy injuries by February 2014, and the Health Minster said that if this were to be in the form of “ex gratia” payments, the Government would be prepared to contribute to the fund. It is also understood that Judge Murphy will be speaking with insurance companies to discover whether they would also contribute towards such a scheme.

Reaction to the announcement was mixed, with Tom Moran – Chairman of the support group Survivors of Symphysiotomy Ltd – welcoming the appointment of Judge Murphy. However, Sinn Fein´s health spokesman – Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin – said “The type of scheme outlined in the terms of reference offers the women no prospect of adequate compensation for what was so barbarically done to them nor the choice to pursue their rights in the courts.”

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