Minister for Health Dr James Reilly has announced that the Government are appointing Judge Yvonne Murphy to explore alternative settlements of compensation for symphysiotomy injuries after the Government withdrew its support for Sinn Fein´s Private Members Bill.
Dr Reilly made the announcement in a press conference after it had been revealed that – due to legal advice – the Government was not going to continue its support of Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin´s Bill which would allow the 300 surviving victims of the controversial childbirth procedure to claim compensation for the injuries they sustained.
Many of the victims have had health issues such as incontinence, immobility and chronic pain since they underwent the symphysiotomy operations that were conducted in Irish hospitals between 1940 and 1990, and Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin´s proposal to allow a one-year window in the Statute of Limitations would have enabled the women to obtain settlements of compensation for their symphysiotomy injuries.
However, it was considered that any such legislation would face a legal challenge from the insurance companies liable for making the settlements of compensation for symphysiotomy injuries, and the Government has instead appointed Judge Yvonne Murthy to explore alternative options to recovering compensation through the courts.
Dr Reilly said that one possible option was for the victims of symphysiotomy procedures to receive an “ex gratia” payment from a fund specifically set up for such a purpose, and the Minister indicated that the Government would contribute to such a fund. It is understood that Judge Murphy will be speaking with some of the insurance companies opposed to a window in the Statute of Limitations to determine whether they would also contribute to a central fund.
The announcement was welcomed by Tom Moran – Chairman of the support group “Survivors of Symphysiotomy Ltd” – who was happy that his members might at last receive settlements of compensation for symphysiotomy injuries and said “We welcome this decision to appoint the judge and hope it leads to women finally being given a chance of some kind of closure.”