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Symphysiotomy Operation Compensation Awarded in High Court

A woman who underwent an unnecessary symphysiotomy procedure in 1969 has had a settlement of symphysiotomy operation compensation awarded in the High Court.

Olivia Kearney (60) of Castlebellingham in County Louth underwent the operation at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda when she was just eighteen years of age following the birth of her first, and only, child. In 2002, Olivia heard a news program on the radio in which the presenter was relating experiences of woman who had undergone the symphysiotomy procedure – often without knowledge or consent – and many of the symptoms coincided with what she had experienced since her child had been born.

After obtaining her medical records and seeking legal advice, Olivia made a claim for symphysiotomy operation compensation against Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in 2004. However, when her case was originally heard in the High Court in 2006, the judge dismissed the claim on the grounds that “there would have to be expert evidence available on both sides to debate the appropriateness of the procedure carried out” and, as the surgeon who performed the procedure without Olivia´s consent, the anaesthetist, radiologist and senior house officer had since died, the circumstances and the necessity for the symphysiotomy operation could not be explained.

Olivia revised her claim for symphysiotomy operation compensation on the grounds that the procedure had been carried out after her child had been delivered by Caesarean Section and that there was “no justification, whatever, in any circumstances, for the carrying out of a symphysiotomy operation [on Ms Kearney] at the time it was performed and following delivery by Caesarean Section”. On appeal to the Supreme Court, Olivia was given leave to re-introduce her symphysiotomy compensation claim and, at the High Court, her case was presented in front of Mr Justice Sean Ryan.

Having heard that Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital could produce no evidence which would explain why the unnecessary procedure was performed, Mr Justice Sean Ryan awarded Olivia 450,000 Euros in symphysiotomy operation compensation against the Medical Missionaries of Mary who ran the Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, commenting that that Olivia had suffered a lifetime of “pain, discomfort and embarrassment” due to the unnecessary symphysiotomy operation.