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Claim for Symphysiotomy Compensation Upheld in Supreme Court

The Supreme Court has upheld a claim for symphysiotomy compensation which resulted in an award of 450,000 Euros in March this year, but reduced the award to 325,000 Euros.

The original claim for symphysiotomy compensation was made by Olivia Kearney (60) from Castlebellingham, County Louth and was heard in the High Court in March in front of Mr Justice Sean Ryan. At the time, Mr Justice Sean Ryan found in Olivia´s favour, and ruled that a symphysiotomy procedure which had been performed in 1969 after the successful delivery of Olivia´s son by Caesarean Section had been unjustified.

The judgement was appealed by Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda on the grounds that the symphysiotomy procedure was medically and ethically justified at the time. The hospital claimed that, in 1969, there were many clinicians who shared the same views on symphysiotomy as Dr Gerard Connolly – the obstetrician who had performed the unnecessary symphysiotomy when Olivia was just eighteen years old.

However, the five-judge Supreme Court unanimously upheld Olivia´s claim for symphysiotomy compensation, with Mr Justice John MacMenamin – announcing the Supreme Court´s decision – stating “the procedure was wrong, even by the standards of the time” and that “it was unfathomable by today’s standards and even by those of 1969 had no justification whatever”.

The verdict of the Supreme Court ends a ten-year legal battle for Olivia, who only found out that she had undergone the procedure after listening to a radio program in 2002. Explaining the reason behind the reduction in the award of symphysiotomy compensation, Mr Justice John MacMenamin acknowledged that Olivia had endured very serious injuries, but they had not resulted in a total inability to live independently, to work, or to engage in any form of meaningful social life.