Thursday, November 28, 2013

Government decision on Symphysiotomy overdue

The decision by the government to appoint Judge Yvonne Murphy who will assist in finding closure for women who have been left traumatised, and physically and mentally scarred by the barbaric practice of symphysiotomy, is long overdue.
The decision to provide a relatively short time frame of eight weeks for Judge Murphy to submit her report to the Minister for Health is useful provided the government doesn’t then delay in announcing what it intends to do. 

I am concerned that the terms of reference are not clear and as we know in these situations the devil is in the detail.  

The decision of the government to oppose the lifting of the Statue of Limitations to allow victims to take their cases to court – if that is their wish – is unacceptable. The victims of symphysiotomy should have the opportunity to choose which course of action is right for them and it is unfair of the government to prevent this. 

I am also troubled by the Minister’s continued refusal to publish the Walsh Report until after the government has decided what to do. In the interests of openness and to allow all of the women affected to decide on the best course of action for them it is necessary that the Walsh report is published. 

The use of symphysiotomy, the inconsistent and minimal application of known standards of care; the inadequate supervision of the clinicians who used the practice; the lack of attention patient’s rights; and the failure of successive government’s over many years to deal with this issue properly and to provide for those women on whom it was used, goes to the heart of the quality of healthcare in this state.
Below is a PQ - Parliamentary Question that I submitted to the Minister for Health and his response on this issue.

DÁIL QUESTION addressed to the Minister for Health (Dr. James Reilly)
by Deputy Gerry Adams
for WRITTEN ANSWER on 27/11/2013

* To ask the Minister for Health further to Parliamentary Questions in which he said that he expected to bring forward proposals on symphysiotomy to the Government, when these proposals will be brought forward; if the Government have decided how best to proceed in relation to this issue; when he will release the name of the judge he will appoint to meet with the women concerned to facilitate decisions on how best to bring closure to the issue; and the length of time he expects the mediation process to take.

Gerry Adams T.D.

Details Supplied: PQ's 444, 472, 476 & 486

I received the approval of the Government yesterday to appoint Judge Yvonne Murphy to assist in finding closure for women who have been affected by a symphysiotomy procedure. The Judge will work with key parties; including representatives of the women, the State Claims Agency and insurance companies in proposing a just outcome. Judge Murphy's work will take around eight weeks, at which time she will submit her independent report to me. I will then revert to Government with detailed proposals so that a decision can be taken as early as possible in the New Year. At that stage Prof Oonagh Walsh's Report will be published.

The Terms of Reference for the work of Judge Yvonne Murphy are:

1. To examine all relevant reports and information relating to symphysiotomy.

2. To meet women who have undergone surgical symphysiotomy procedures to assess what, in their opinion, would bring closure for them.

3. To assess, in conjunction with the State Claims Agency (SCA)and other relevant bodies, the relative liabilities of insurers, indemnifiers and/or other parties in relation to cases pending, or which may arise linked to surgical symphysiotomy procedures.

4. To meet insurers, indemnifiers and/or other parties in relation to such liabilities and to explore and negotiate a quantum representing a fair contribution towards a fund which would form part of an ex-gratia scheme to which Government would also contribute in order to establish an ex-gratia scheme and put closure on the issue for the women involved.

5. To assess the merits and cost to the State of proceeding with an ex-gratia scheme relative to allowing the court process to proceed.

6. To report to the Minister within a period of 8 working weeks on the outcome of these deliberations, with recommendations on the next steps.

I met representatives of the women yesterday with Judge Murphy to assure everyone that she will consult with all relevant parties in an environment where there are no preconceived ideas of what her conclusions might be. In this way her work will be truly independent.

My priority continues to be to ensure that the women who have had this procedure have their health needs comprehensively and professionally met. In this regard, the HSE provides a range of services to women who may be experiencing any adverse effects as a result of undergoing this procedure. These services include the provision of medical cards for the women, the availability of independent clinical advice and the organisation of individual pathways of care and the arrangement of appropriate follow-up. All these services are available on request by the women from the HSE nominated Symphysiotomy Liaison Officers.


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