The Minister for Health Dr James Reilly has proposed a new symphysiotomy compensation plan after changing its position on extending the Statute of Limitations for women who underwent the procedure between the 1940s and 1980s.
The plans were announced at a press conference. The Minister stated that Judge Yvonne Murphy has been asked to examine the feasibility of a compensation scheme for women who underwent the controversial childbirth procedure, and who have been left with permanent injuries such as incontinence, difficulty with walking and chronic pain.
The former High Court judge has been asked to compile a series of compensation options for review in February 2014, to “assist in finding closure” for the women affected by the operation. The minister’s statement further claimed that the government would contribute to an ex gratia scheme if that is the symphysiotomy compensation plan recommended. It is understood that Judge Murphy will be meeting with insurance companies to explore whether they would contribute towards such a scheme.
A private members bill about the issue had been introduced into the Dáil by Sinn Féin’s Health Spokesman Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin. The bill to allowed for a one-year window for the affected women to make claims for symphysiotomy compensation; however the Government were then told that such a move could result in a legal challenge by the insurance companies who would have been liable for compensating the women.
Sinn Féin’s health spokesman Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin criticised plans to keep the statute of limitations in place. He said “The type of scheme outlined in the terms of reference offers the women no prospect of adequate compensation for what was so barbarically done to them nor the choice to pursue their rights in the courts.”
However Chairman of the support group Survivors of Symphysiotomy Ltd – Tom Moran – welcomed the announcement of a new symphysiotomy compensation plan. His comment was “We welcome this decision to appoint the judge and we hope it leads to women finally being given a chance of some kind of closure.”