Department of Health Update on Symphysiotomy Payment Scheme December, 2014
Judge Maureen Harding Clark has reported that by 3 p.m. today (5 December) over 360 applications have been made for awards under the Scheme.
Application forms continue to be received. Forty conditional offers totalling €2.6 million have been made.
The Government hopes the Scheme will help to bring closure for the women concerned and their families.
The Scheme is voluntary and the women will not waive their rights to take their cases to court as a precondition to participating in the Scheme. Women may opt out of the Scheme at any stage in the process, up to the time of accepting their award.
The Minister for Health met the three support groups representing the women last September and their views have helped to shape the Scheme. The Scheme is supported by two of the three groups.
The Symphysiotomy Scheme is open to women who are still living and who underwent a surgical symphysiotomy or pubiotomy in the State between the years 1940 and 1990, including women who are living abroad. Tax-free awards of €50,000, €100,000 and €150,000 are being offered. Details of the Terms of the Scheme and how to access application forms have been widely advertised.
The Scheme makes provision for applicants to have legal and other advice available to them in preparing to submit an application if they wish.
Applications must be made within 20 working days of the Commencement Date, which was 10 November, 2014. The Closing Date for receipt of applications was therefore Friday 5 December 2014. In exceptional circumstances, Judge Clark has discretion to extend the time for receipt of applications by an additional 20 working days, that is, to Wednesday, 14 January 2015. It is important to note that in the event of a delay arising in the compilation of a woman’s supporting documentation due to difficulty in obtaining medical records, the application should be submitted within the time period set out in the Scheme with a written explanation of the reasons for the absence of the documentation. The details of this provision are set out in the terms and conditions of the Scheme, which are available on the Scheme’s website (payment-scheme.gov.ie).
Symphysiotomy is a procedure undertaken for obstetric purposes, involving the cutting of the pubic symphysis, which excludes the spontaneous separation of the pubic symphysis during childbirth. It is estimated that around 1,500 women underwent symphysiotomies between 1940 and 1984 in Irish hospitals and that around 350 of these women are still alive.
The Surgical Symphysiotomy Payment Scheme commenced on 10th November 2014. Government has agreed that the Scheme will also include payments for the small number of women who have had a pubiotomy. The Scheme is designed to be simple, straightforward and non-adversarial, and aims to minimise the stress for the women concerned. Many are elderly and may not want to experience the delay, publicity and financial risks that sometimes come with a court case.
It is not a requirement for a woman to retain a Solicitor to make an application. It is only on accepting the offer of an award that a woman must agree to discontinue her legal proceedings against any party arising out of a symphysiotomy or pubiotomy.
Judge Maureen Harding Clark, retired High Court Judge was appointed as independent Assessor to the Scheme. Judge Clark, from her previous work on the Lourdes Hospital Redress Board, brings valuable experience to the role of determining the appropriate level of award for each woman.