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Have the human rights of symphysiotomy survivors been abused?

Independent TD Clare Daly recently said that recommendations made by the United Nations have not been met.

Marie O'Connor, Chairperson of Survivors of Symphysiotomy
Marie O'Connor, Chairperson of Survivors of Symphysiotomy
Image: Mark Stedman/Photocall Ireland

INDEPENDENT TD CLARE Daly has questioned whether the human rights of symphysiotomy survivors have been protected by the government.

Last year a group representing hundreds of women who underwent the procedures appeared before a United Nations watchdog in Geneva to address the matter.

At the time, the UN’s Committee on Human Rights advised that an investigation should be launched, and that there were concerns that the State had failed to carry out a comprehensive probe.

The committee also recommended that the State should “identify, prosecute and punish” those who had carried out the procedures without the prior consent of the patients involved.

In a recent parliamentary question, independent TD Daly asked the Health Minister Leo Varadkar, about the “failure to address the concerns of the UN Human Rights Committee, and his proposals to make this scheme compatible with our human rights obligations.”

In response to a query from TheJournal.ie, Deputy Clare Daly, said, “Of course I wasn’t satisfied with their reply. There should be no à la carte attitudes to Human rights issues whereby a government can pick and choose what issues it will be compliant with.”

[The UN's Committee on Human Rights] was shocked and appalled at the state’s treatment of the women  and strongly recommended a scheme that is the total opposite of what the government put forward.

Is the redress scheme an abuse? 

In response to the question asked by Deputy Daly, the Health Minister clarified that “Surgical Symphysiotomy Payment Scheme” is voluntary and that by participating in it women do not waive their right to take their cases to court.

Rather, it is only upon accepting an award that the women involved forego their right to take legal action.

He went on to point to the fact that a recent case had seen a 74-year-old woman lose a High Court action that she brought over a procedure that she underwent in 1963.

On whether recommendations laid out by the UN Human Right’s committee were being met, he said:

[The government] believes that the provision of the ex-gratia scheme, together with the ongoing provision of support services by the HSE, including medical cards, represents a fair and appropriate response to this issue.

What does the scheme involve?

The redress scheme offered by the Department of Health involves survivors of symphysiotomy receiving one-off financial payments as compensation for the procedures they underwent.

These come as sums of €50,000, €100,000 and €150,000.

The scheme commenced in November of last year and 576 applications have been accepted so far. In total 206 offers have been made to women under the redress scheme with 1 of these being rejected, 194 accepted and 11 awaiting a response.

Read:  ‘Devastating’: 74-year-old woman loses symphysiotomy case

Also: “I am a symphysiotomy survivor. I am glad it’s all over”

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