Payouts to start in weeks for birth procedure victims
WOMEN who suffered injuries as a result of undergoing the barbaric childbirth procedure symphysiotomy are to be offered compensation payouts in the autumn.
A Department of Health spokeswoman said the scheme - which will make ex-gratia no-fault payments of between €50,000 to €150,000 - is expected to be up and running in the coming months and women will be informed about how it will work as "soon as possible" after the details have been finalised.
"Once the terms of the scheme have been agreed they will be publicised and women may apply at any stage," she added. The €34m scheme was announced in July by former Health Minister James Reilly, who said the Government acknowledged the pain and suffering of women who underwent the procedure.
New Health Minister Leo Varadkar has now written to groups representing the women, offering to meet them in September amid fears that many will snub the offer as inadequate the pursue their cases through the courts.
A spokesman for Mr Varadkar said he very anxious to meet the women and would like to speak to them about their individual experiences. The procedure they underwent involved breaking the pelvis during childbirth to allow the child to be born - but it left many women with lifelong disabilities, difficulty walking, pain and depression.
Around 350 women ranging in age from their mid-40s to early 90s were believed to be eligible for the scheme but more have come forward for the first time in recent weeks.
The department spokeswoman said: "The Government hopes that the ex-gratia scheme, which will allow women to accept an award of between €50,000 and €150,000, thereby relieving them of the burden of pursuing their case through the courts, will help to draw a line under the issue for those affected.
"The details of how the scheme will work are being drawn up and it is intended to have it established as soon as possible in the autumn. Once the terms of how the scheme will work have been agreed, they will be publicised and women may apply at that stage."
Marie O'Connor, of the group Survivors of Symphysiotomy, which voted to reject the redress offer, said they will meet the minister and put their serious concerns to him. Another group, led by Patient Focus, said they will take part in the scheme.
"We will take another look at it when they finalise the scheme. We hope that there will be concessions made. We will look at the fine print and have meetings as we always do. But our fear is that it will be fundamentally the scheme that was announced.
"New survivors have come forward- I would say about two score. Above and beyond that there two test cases have been in and out of the courts already and there will be another number going forward for hearing in October."
The United Nation's Committee on Human Rights last month said Ireland should open a "prompt, independent and thorough investigation" into cases of symphysiotomy.
It also called for the Government to punish, where possible the "perpetrators", where it was carried out without patient consent.