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Survivors of symphysiotomy call for scheme's expiry date to be lifted

Women have 20 days to sign up the redress scheme.

Survivors and supporters at a protest outside the Department of An Taoiseach on Merrion Street in September.
Survivors and supporters at a protest outside the Department of An Taoiseach on Merrion Street in September.
Image: Sam Boal/Photocall Ireland

A REDRESS SCHEME for symphysiotomy survivors has been introduced for or women who underwent surgical symphysiotomy or pubiotomy.

Women who take part will receive awards at three levels – €50,000, €100,000 and €150,000. Participants must join the scheme within 20 days, starting from last Monday, 10 November.

However, the Survivors of Symphysiotomy group, which represents 400 casualties, have criticised the scheme and called for the immediate lifting of the scheme’s expiry date.

Chairperson Marie O’Connor said:

The Chief Commissioner has identified key weaknesses of this payments scheme, including its oppressive and unprecedented time limits, and its waiver of legal rights.

‘Drastic deadline’

She said that “natural justice” demands that the “punitive expiry date” of 20 working days be lifted immediately, adding that such a unprecedented and drastic deadline “undermines women’s legal and constitutional rights”.

O’Connor said there is no provision for the scheme to be extended beyond 40 working days, and it is at the assessor’s discretion to accept late applications or late documentation post 20 days.

“There is no right of appeal,” she said.

She criticised the scheme stating that it is flawed in that “hardly any woman will get more than €50,000, a sum widely seen as a pittance for lifelong disability”.

To prove “significant disability” that is “directly attributable” to symphysiotomy within the time allowed is impossible, she added.

While some hospitals continue to withhold records, those who cannot access them are now at risk under this scheme. It excludes survivors suffering from dementia, discriminates against less well off women (who cannot pay for independent medical reports), those living abroad those with knowledge issues and those with psychological difficulties.

The Irish Council of Civil Liberties has criticised the scheme, saying that it “falls short of meeting Ireland’s international human rights obligations to an ageing population” of symphysiotomy survivors.

A statement from the Department of Health states the scheme is supported by two of the three groups representing the women.

It’s important to note that applications can be accepted without all of the relevant information.For example, there may be delays in compiling medical reports in some cases. The Scheme is designed to be simple, straightforward and non-adversarial compared to a lengthy uphill court battle, or a tribunal, with an uncertain outcome, financial risks and added stress.

The department said the scheme is voluntary and no one taking part waives their right to proceed with a court case.

“They may opt out of the application and assessment process at any stage, up to the time of accepting an award. A number of completed applications have already been received.”

Read: ‘I was just 27 and I was butchered’: Symphysiotomy survivors in their own words>

Read: Symphysiotomy compensation scheme announced – but how many survivors will apply?>

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