Symphysiotomy Compensation Claims in Ireland

At the time of writing (September 2012) it is currently not possible to make symphysiotomy compensation claims in Ireland if a period of two years or more has elapsed from the “date of knowledge” that a patient underwent a symphysiotomy procedure unnecessarily or without consent.

In June 2012 a Joint Oireachtas Committee heard survivors of this controversial procedure call on the Minister of Health to waive the Statute of Limitations for symphysiotomy compensation claims in Ireland – a call which was echoed by TD for Louth, Mr Gerry Adams, in July 2012.

Should the government allow a temporary window to make symphysiotomy claims for compensation, it is estimated that 200 women will be entitled to symphysiotomy compensation. This article provides a brief introduction to symphysiotomy medical negligence and explains the procedures that will need to be completed before it is possible to make symphysiotomy compensation claims in Ireland once the Statute of Limitations is waived.

The Effects of Symphysiotomy Medical Negligence

Symphysiotomy procedures were performed between the 1940s and 1990s in Ireland in order to increase the size of the pelvic outlet to aid childbirth as an alternative to a Caesarean Section. The procedure involves cutting the cartilage between the pubic bones and breaking the pelvis – an operation which frequently left the mother in extreme pain, incontinent and with impaired mobility.

Many of these operations were performed while the mother was unconscious from the effect of anaesthesia and without consent being provided. Indeed, the majority of women who would be entitled to make symphysiotomy claims for compensation did not know that they had undergone the procedure until many years later when their medical records were reviewed.

When any surgical procedure is unnecessarily performed without the consent of the patient and without a full explanation of the potential consequences, and that procedure results in an injury which could have been avoided if another course of action had been taken, it is categorised in Ireland as medical negligence. Should you have undergone a symphysiotomy procedure without your consent, you should speak with a symphysiotomy solicitor at the first possible opportunity to get the latest information relating to symphysiotomy compensation claims in Ireland.

Making Symphysiotomy Compensation Claims in Ireland

Even before the Statute of Limitations is lifted, concerned women should contact their GP and request a copy of their medical records from the hospital at which the procedure may have been performed. Many people believe that symphysiotomy operations were only carried out at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda and the National Maternity Hospital in Dublin; but a report compiled earlier this year by Professor Oonagh Walsh of the University Hospital Cork revealed that symphysiotomies were also performed in the Coombe and Rotunda Hospitals in Dublin and Cork´s University Maternity Hospital – with possibly more hospitals performing the procedure.

As symphysiotomy cases are based around medical negligence, any claim for symphysiotomy compensation which is sent to the Injuries Board Ireland for assessment will be declined even though liability for your injuries is apparent. Therefore, once it has been established that a symphysiotomy procedure has been performed – and the government waive the Statute of Limitations for symphysiotomy compensation claims – your solicitor will be able to guide you through the remaining procedures which need to be completed in order to claim symphysiotomy compensation.

Claims for Compensation and Symphysiotomy Settlements

Only one symphysiotomy compensation claim in Ireland has been resolved to date – the case of Olivia Kearney, who discovered by chance in 2002 that she had undergone a symphysiotomy procedure at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in 1969. Her claim for symphysiotomy compensation was first made in 2004, dismissed and re-introduced on appeal to the Supreme Court. In March 2012, Olivia was awarded 450,000 Euros in settlement of her symphysiotomy claim for compensation. This figure was reduced on appeal by Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital to 325,000 Euros, but the verdict that Olivia was entitled to symphysiotomy compensation was allowed to stand.

When the government allow the remaining victims of unnecessary symphysiotomy operations to make their claims for symphysiotomy compensation the claims procedure will not be so prolonged. However each symphysiotomy claim for compensation will be assessed individually on its merits and symphysiotomy settlements awarded in relation to the pain and suffering experienced in the years since the procedure was performed, any quantifiable psychological injury which has been sustained and financial losses for medical treatment, loss of earnings and other related expenses.

As it is not known when, and for how long, it will be possible to make symphysiotomy compensation claims in Ireland, you are advised to speak with a symphysiotomy solicitor as soon as possible.