Monday 24 July 2017

Most payouts to symphysiotomy survivors are in €50,000 bracket

Leo Varadkar
Leo Varadkar

Eilish O'Regan Health Correspondent

Payouts to women who underwent the controversial childbirth operation known as symphysiotomy have mostly been in the €50,000 bracket, with just a small minority getting the maximum award of €150,000, new figures reveal.

The Government set up the Symphysiotomy Redress Scheme nearly a year ago with three grades of payout: €50,000, €100,000 and €150,000.

This followed years of campaigning by women who had the procedure, mostly in the 1960s and 1970s, which involved breaking the pelvis during childbirth.

Doctors at the time deemed this sometimes necessary to allow children to be born. But it left many women with lifelong disabilities, difficulty in walking, pain and depression.

New figures show that 162 of the women who applied for payments and were assessed have so far received €50,000. Another 124 got €100,000.

Just nine women were awarded the top payment of €150,000.

Health Minister Leo Varadkar said the scheme had been operating well since it was established on November 10, 2014.

He said: "It was estimated that 350 women would apply to the scheme, but in fact 578 applications have been accepted by the scheme and, as of October, 9, 306 offers have been made.

"Of these offers, 295 have been accepted, nine are awaiting a response, one was rejected and one woman died before she had accepted her offer. Two hundred and ninety-five offers have been accepted by applicants," he said in a parliamentary reply to TD Clare Daly.

A spokesman for the Department of Health said the redress unit was processing all requests for payment of awards in a timely manner as soon as the recommendation to pay is received from Judge Maureen Clark, the scheme's independent assessor.

The spokesman added: "However, Judge Clark has also made it easier for payments to be made more quickly where a woman has taken a court case and it is in the process of being discontinued.

"This is because in some cases, legal representatives have not provided a Notice of Discontinuance to the Redress Scheme in a timely manner in relation to the applicant's court proceedings.

"This can result in long delays between the acceptance of an offer and the actual payment of the award. In one recent case, the delay was several months."

The spokesman said that as "this is unfair to applicants, Judge Clark has indicated that as soon as a Notice of Discontinuance of proceedings is served on the scheme, the payment to the applicant will be recommended, even when agreement on fees due to an assisting solicitor has not been finalised."

Around 200 women have lodged cases in the courts.

The Government last year ruled out lifting the statute of limitations for the women, as requested by the Survivors of Symphysiotomy group.

This could mean it would be open to constitutional challenge and insurance companies would also not be held liable.

In many cases women, who are now mostly in their 70s and 80s, were unaware of even the identity of the doctor who carried out the procedure and had no documentation related to the event.

Irish Independent

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