A WOMAN who a judge described as "a victim of grave medical malpractice" has been awarded €450,000 in High Court damages.
Olivia Kearney was put through a completely unnecessary surgical procedure after having her first baby nearly 43 years ago, leaving her in severe pain and causing serious damage to her psychological health, Mr Justice Sean Ryan said.
The symphysiotomy procedure -- involving the surgical enlargement of the pelvis -- was carried out at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda, Co Louth, in October 1969 by since deceased gynaecologist Dr Gerard Connolly.
Mr Justice Ryan said there was no need to do the symphysiotomy because Ms Kearney's baby son had already been delivered by Caesarean section
Ms Kearney, of Castlebellingham, Co Louth, claimed the procedure was wholly unnecessary and was abandoned in the developed world in the 19th Century.
She sued the hospital and the North Eastern Health Board which denied her claims and contended the procedure was justified in the circumstances that obtained at the time.
Mr Justice Ryan yesterday said Dr Connolly had altered the course of her life irrevocably by carrying out "this unnecessary operation."
It had left her with a life of pain, discomfort and embarrassment. "Her reasonable expectation of enjoying a normal sexual and emotional relationship was destroyed," he said. Her desire to have more children was similarly frustrated, he said.
Her self-esteem had been shattered and she blamed herself for the inadequacies and disappointments that resulted, he said. She did not even know she had had a symphisiotomy until nearly 33 years later when she had a radio programme in which women described their experiences following such operations.
"That revelation in 2002 that her life had been transformed by a deliberate act and not by natural causes brought its own extra quotient of misery," the judge said.
Her legal action was brought after 2002 but the defendants successfully asked the High Court to strike out her claim because of the prejudice against it by the delay in bringing the proceedings. She appealed that decision to the Supreme Court.
The matter came back before the High Court where today Mr Justice Ryan said it was disturbing to consider how close "this victim of grave medical malpractice came to being sacrificed on the altar of fair procedures".
The judge ordered that the defendants could appeal his decision if it paid out €200,000 first to Ms Kearney, who said afterwards she was delighted with the judgment and glad the case was now over.