Government’s so-called “non-adversarial” Scheme places impossible and unjust burden of proof on survivors of symphysiotomy

Government’s so-called “non-adversarial” Scheme places impossible and unjust burden of proof on survivors of symphysiotomy.

Survivors of Symphysiotomy have criticised the implementation of the Symphysiotomy Scheme, describing the Scheme’s criteria for a 50 year paper trail of injuries as ‘unrealistic, unreasonable and utterly unjust’. Marie O’Connor, Chairperson of Survivors of Symphysiotomy, said: ‘we have received reports from members that the Symphysiotomy Scheme is demanding a 50 year paper trail of damage and health problems and disregarding survivor testimony’.

‘The Payment Scheme, which was established by Minister for Health, Leo Varadkar, last November and ignored key recommendations of the UN Human Rights Committee on the protection of survivors’ legal rights, has set an impossible standard of proof in respect of injury. To prove injury, women must show a paper trail of injury for forty to fifty years. The “temporal link” between symphysiotomy and its sequels, plus early documented specialist referral and treatment, required by the Scheme, will inevitably result in applicants receiving no more than €50,000. This is no restitution for a lost life,’ said Marie O’Connor.

‘There is no GP paper trail documenting specialist treatment from the outset and to require one would be deeply unjust, because such records do not exist. There was a pattern of under treatment and under reporting, and the doctors involved are generally deceased’ Ms O’Connor said.

‘There was no aftercare, let alone specialist treatment, in the overwhelming majority of cases. GPs generally ignored the fact that their patients, young and previously healthy women, could not walk six weeks after giving birth. The surgery was rarely disclosed to the patient who had been subjected to it.’

‘Women of that generation suffered in silence: complaints, such as urinary incontinence, sexual problems and depression, were not spoken of. Such issues went unreported and untreated.’

‘If there were relevant records, they have long vanished. Medical record keeping was poor 50 years ago and, more recently, the practice has been to destroy notes. So, the GP records now being sought by the scheme are non-existent’, the Chairperson concluded.

“The scheme’s insistence on paper proofs suggests that neither women nor their families are to be believed” says Marie O’Connor, Chairperson of the Survivors of Symphysiotomy.

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