A woman who underwent a needless symphysiotomy operation without her knowledge or consent has been awarded 450,000 Euros in symphysiotomy medical negligence compensation in Dublin´s High Court.
Olivia Kearney (60) of Castlebellingham, County Louth, was just eighteen years of age when she gave birth to her son at the Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda in 1969. While she was still anaesthetised following the Caesarean Section operation, Dr Gerard Connolly – the consultant obstetrician attending Olivia – performed a symphysiotomy procedure in which the cartilage between Olivia´s left and right pubic bones was cut to widen the pelvis.
Unaware that the procedure had been performed, Olivia suffered with back pain, incontinence and depression without knowing the reason why for more than thirty years. In 2002, Olivia was listening to a radio program in which the presenter was relating the experiences of women who had undergone the symphysiotomy procedure and the symptoms described in the radio program matched those which Olivia had suffered from all her adult life.
After obtaining her medical records and seeking legal advice, Olivia made a claim for symphysiotomy medical negligence compensation but, in 2006, Olivia´s claim was rejected by the High Court on the grounds that “there would have to be expert evidence available on both sides to debate the appropriateness of the procedure carried out” and, as Dr Connolly had since died, the necessity for the symphysiotomy procedure could not be explained.
Olivia revised her claim for symphysiotomy medical negligence compensation, claiming instead that there was no justification in any circumstances for a symphysiotomy procedure to be carried out immediately after a successful Caesarean Section delivery – meaning that an explanation of whether the procedure was required “at that time and in those circumstances” was no longer relevant. The Supreme Court agreed with her argument and gave Olivia leave to reintroduce her claim.
At the High Court in Dublin, Mr Justice Sean Ryan heard that representatives of Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital could not produce evidence to explain why the unnecessary procedure was performed and, finding favour of Olivia, awarded her 450,000 Euros in symphysiotomy medical negligence compensation – stating that Olivia had suffered a lifetime of “pain, discomfort and embarrassment” due to the unnecessary symphysiotomy procedure.