A Co Louth woman who was subjected to a symphysiotomy procedure at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda over 40 years ago has been awarded €450,000 by the High Court.

Olivia Kearney of Castlebellingham is one of many women who underwent the procedure to permanently widen the pelvis of women who might require repeat Caesarian sections.

Ms Kearney said she had only discovered in 2002 she had been subject to the procedure, when she heard a radio programme about the controversy surrounding it.

Ms Kearney was 18 when it was performed on her after the birth of her son in 1969.

Mr Justice Sean Ryan said Ms Kearney had experienced a life of pain, discomfort and embarrassment because of the unnecessary operation.

Symphysiotomoy had been abandoned in other countries much earlier than in Ireland, and Ms Kearney's claim was that the procedure was wholly unjustified.

The procedure had been carried out without her knowledge or consent.

During earlier hearings she described her life since as very distressing and she had felt it was her own fault.

She had hoped to have more children but was afraid to do so because of what had happened to her, and she felt the pain would be too bad.

Ruling welcomed

The campaign group Patient Focus has welcomed today's High Court judgment, on what was the first symphysiotomy case to come before the courts.

It is understood there are another 120 cases pending.

Sheila O'Connor of Patient Focus said today's decision was a great step forward for all the women who were continuing to suffer as a result of what was done to them.

However, she said no money could compensate for a lifetime of often severe physical pain as a result of operations the women did not need, never gave their permission for and were never told about afterwards.

Ms O'Connor said that Ms Kearney had struggled against the odds for years to bring this case and it was a tremendous achievement.

"She is a very brave and courageous lady who has done a huge service to all those others who are suffering," said Ms O'Connor.