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.