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Return the records to survivors of symphysiotomy

Published: Wednesday, March 23, 2016

The National Women’s Council of Ireland (NWCI) today called for the medical records of the 700 women who applied to the Symphysiotomy Payment Scheme to be automatically returned to survivors.

Orla O’Connor, Director of NWCI said,
“As part of the work of the Symphysiotomy Payment Scheme, the medical records of the 700 women who applied for compensation were collected. A recent note of the Scheme’s website indicated that where women have not requested that their records be returned to them by Sunday 20 March, it intends to destroy those records. Based on paragraph 40 of the Scheme, it is clear that the women who submitted their records of this torturous experience did so in the reasonable belief that these documents would be returned. The solution here is not a complex one –return the records to the women.”

Orla O’Connor continued,
“Claims have been made that destruction is required under data protection, and that the Scheme does not possess original copies of the records. Both of these claims have disputed by survivors, representative groups, academics and activists. Regardless of these discussions, it is paramount that, in all cases of abuse and institutional violence, utmost care be taken by the Scheme and the Department of Health not to further traumatise the survivors. Fulfilment of Section 2 of the Data Protection Act 1988, requiring that records be kept ‘no longer than is necessary’, does not require destruction of the records. We must listen to survivors who say that destruction would cause further trauma, and ensure that obligations under the Data Protection Act are fulfilled through automatically returning the records to the women.”

Orla O’Connor concluded,
“Destroying these records will pose immense barriers to any future investigation or examination of the practice of symphysiotomy in Ireland, potentially denying redress to women. We know of the immense difficulties faced by the Magdalene survivors, unable to access their duration of stay records, where the word of the religious orders who incarcerated the women is believed over the women. And while the immediate concern must be justice for symphysiotomy survivors, we know that one day, Ireland must accept and understand the extent and prevalence of institutional abuse of women and children. These records will be central to that process.”

For more information, please contact Sarah Clarkin, Communications Officer, NWCI, Tel. 085 861 9087.