A new government-run scheme to help women claim symphysiotomy compensation for operations performed on them without adequate consent between 1940 and 1980 has been launched.
The scheme follows after the government changed its mind on extending the Statute of Limitations such that women who had unknowingly undergone the procedure during labour could claim compensation. There are an estimated three hundred and fifty women alive today who survived the procedure.
The symphysiotomy compensation scheme works on a three-tier basis, based upon how badly injured the victims were. Those who did not sustain any long-term damage are entitled to claim €50,000. Women who sustained a recorded disability because of the procedure can claim €100,000 while those who had previously had a Caesarean Section, and then had a symphysiotomy performed upon them can receive €150,000.
A former judge in the High Court, Maureen Harding-Clark, has been appointed by the government to oversee each claim, which must be submitted by the 5th December of this year. However, this deadline can be extended by a further twenty days should Judge Harding-Clark deem the case exceptional.
Once the claim has been processed and a compensation value determined, the claimants have up to twenty days to accept the offer. However, to do this, any action against the state must first be withdrawn by the claimant.
There are presently over one-hundred-and-fifty High Court actions for symphysiotomy claims on progress, and dates for two of the hearings have been confirmed. Marie O’Connor, head of Survivors of Symphysiotomy, has expressed her dissatisfaction with the new scheme as the time limit makes it “impossible for women to seek independent advice and to make a considered decision”.
The Director of the Irish Council for Civil Liberties, Mark Kelly, has also expressed his disapproval of the scheme, claiming that it contradicts the state’s obligations to human rights by not addressing compensation needs for each individual. Additionally, the compensation is being paid out without any admission by the state of their liability.