Press Release

Government announces details of Symphysiotomy Payment Scheme

Judge Maureen Harding Clark appointed as Independent Assessor

The Government has announced details of the Symphysiotomy Payment Scheme for women who underwent a surgical symphysiotomy.

Former High Court Judge Maureen Harding Clark has been appointed as an independent assessor to oversee the implementation of the ex-gratia Payment Scheme.

The Scheme will also include payments for the small number of women who have had a pubiotomy.

This announcement follows a Government decision last July which gave approval to the establishment of a Scheme, amounting to approximately €34 million. Participants will receive awards at three levels – €50,000, €100,000 and €150,000.

The Scheme is designed to be simple, straightforward and non-adversarial, and aims to minimise the stress for all the women concerned. Many of the women are elderly and may not want to experience the delay, publicity and financial risks that sometimes come with a court case. Minister Varadkar met all three support groups representing the women last September.

“The women’s views have helped us to shape this Scheme, and we hope it will be acceptable to the majority. They specifically requested the appointment of a fully independent Assessor. I am very pleased that Judge Maureen Harding Clark has since agreed to accept this position. Her experience in dealing with the Lourdes Hospital Redress Scheme will be invaluable in helping to make this current Payment Scheme as sympathetic and compassionate as possible,” Minister Varadkar said.

“The groups also sought the inclusion of women who had a pubiotomy, and I am pleased to confirm that they will also be covered,” he added.

Judge Clark’s role will be to determine the appropriate level of award for each individual case.

Women may opt out of the scheme at any stage if they wish to pursue an action through the courts instead, up to the time of accepting their award. No one will have to waive their right to proceed with a court cases as a pre-condition of applying to the scheme. If they wish, women may obtain legal or professional advice, including financial support, to help in preparing to submit an application to the Payment Scheme, but this is not necessary.

The Payment Scheme will start next Monday, November 10th and further details are being advertised.


Note for Editors:  
Under the Scheme surgical symphysiotomy means a procedure for obstetric purposes involving the cutting of the pubic symphysis, which excludes the spontaneous separation of the pubic symphysis during childbirth. Pubiotomy means a procedure for obstetric purposes which cuts through the pubic bone.

View information on the Surgical Symphysiotomy Payment Scheme here.

Judge Maureen Harding Clark

Judge Maureen Harding Clark

Judge Maureen Harding Clark

Judge Clark was called to the Bar in Dublin in 1975 following her university education at Lyon, UCD, Trinity College and the King’s Inns. She practised first on the South Eastern Circuit and then as Senior Counsel in Dublin from 1991. She had a comprehensive legal practice specialising in criminal law and the law of medical negligence. She has acted for the families of the bereaved in many inquests and has represented the government in a large number of children’s special needs cases.

In 2001 she was elected to sit as a judge at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia at The Hague. In 2003 at the end of her first trial she was elected as judge of the International Criminal Court (ICC), an independent, permanent court that tries war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity.

While awaiting the commencement of trials before that court she was invited to conduct the Inquiry into the unusual number of peripartum hysterectomy carried out at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda. Her inquiry had noted an unusual number of operations where young women suffered the removal of both ovaries. She reported to Government in 2006 and was asked to advise on a redress scheme for those who suffered from inappropriate peripartum hysterectomy. She advised that those who had suffered inappropriate bilateral oophorectomy should also be included in any redress scheme. Following her advices to the Government, she was appointed as Chairperson of the Lourdes Hospital Redress Scheme, which included both sterilising procedures. A large number of former patients received redress.

In late 2006 she was appointed to the High Court and resigned from the ICC. She sat on the High Court while conducting the Redress Scheme. She retired from the High Court earlier this year. She has two adult children and two grandchildren. Her daughter is a psychiatrist and her son who lives in Switzerland also works in medical related work in the analysis of clinical trials of new drugs.

Judge Clark is president of the Irish Women Lawyers Association and was recently inducted into the International Women’s Forum Hall of Fame in the United States.