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Symphysiotomy in Ireland: Ireland Payment Scheme

As was the case with the reports that came before, the Harding Clark Report has acted as a whitewash report on symphysiotomy, with the government payment scheme attempting to silence the voices of women who had suffered from the misuse of the symphysiotomy procedure during a time when it had been discontinued across the rest of the developed world. Despite the demands of the United Nations, the payment scheme does not offer a right of appeal and does not protect the legal rights of the women. Instead, in order to gain often meagre compensation, victims must indemnify their abusers.

Rather than adhering to the needs of the afflicted and listening to survivor testimony, the sole assessor of the scheme has foregone such requirements, instead, declining expert and independent medical reports, refusing testimony, and opting to shun the common practices of the High Court that they used to reside within. The scheme became poised to exclude as many claimants as possible from any restitution bar the absolute minimum payment or any at all. On top of this, the price that comes with a survivor taking the comparatively small compensation is that they must also waive their right to seeking a judicial remedy, which is a right given to us by the United Nations Human Rights Committee.

These failings could constitute as human rights infringements.

The government’s payment scheme has appeared to adopt a highly adversarial attitude towards the survivors making claims; this is in the thinking that Ireland is at risk of paying out to false claims. In doing so, the scheme threatened to impose a timeframe in which hospital records had to be attained and furnished – despite these records being systematically withheld from survivors for over a decade. Furthermore, the scheme refused to accept specialist reports from medical practitioners that didn’t treat survivors as it claimed that such reports lack credibility. Despite the fact that judicial proceedings would accept this form of evidence, as well as the recounts of plaintiffs, it is very unlikely to be recognised within the scheme.

Furthermore, the scheme is fixated on falsehoods which ultimately limit its application. Applicants who cannot obtain medical records need to undergo an MRI to act as the proof of surgery, but, MRIs of the pelvis don’t yield such proof, meaning that applicants who have had to use this method will invariably be disqualified. All indications point to the need for a paper trail to establish proof of ‘significant disability,’ but in many cases, this trail doesn’t exist, with the fact that some will go back over 60 years making it problematic to attain. The scheme incorrectly assumes that anyone suffering from chronic pain, depression, walking difficulties, or incontinence will have received specialist treatment. It also hinges on the assumption that general practitioners throughout the decades in question would have kept records, and that those records are still accessible today.

Without proof of surgery, survivors are set to receive €50,000 at the very most in the vast majority of cases, as well as be forced to waive their right to pursue legal action in court.

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