No to Symphysiotomy Inquiry

“If Minister Harney was in my body even for one day we would have the review the next day”.

Kathleen Naughton, Survivors of Symphysiotomy

Following last night’s Prime Time  report on symphysiotomy, the group  Survivors of Symphysiotomy has called on the Taoiseach  to initiate an immediate inquiry into the use in Irish hospitals of the childbirth surgery which permanently widens the pelvis. IrishHealth.com carries a good report on the issue and on the survivors’ campaign here.

The Minister for Health, Mary Harney (above left), has refused to set up any inquiry . Calls for an inquiry in 2002 met with a similar response. Survivors of Symphysiotomy have now called for the Minister to be dismissed from cabinet.

Ireland was the only country in the developed world where symphysiotomy was practiced in the 20th century. It was used into the 1980’s and has left many women with lifelong serious medical difficulties including chronic pain, difficulty walking and incontinence. The Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, however, has said that the practice was considered valid at the time when it was employed.

A health package has been made available to women who are suffering the after-effects of the operation, but it seems entirely reasonable that, in addition to this provision, their claims should be examined and debated in the public sphere. This is especially the case because survivors have raised issues around their consent to the practice, and about its use on young mothers and mothers who were in the ‘care’ of state and religious organisations at the time of their operations.

You can watch some very interesting presentations on the issue given at a meeting hosted by the Feminist Open Forum in October here. Speakers included solicitor Colm McGeehin, who represents over 100 women affected by the practice. BBC’s Women’s Hour also discussed the issue in 2002.

We hope to have more indepth commentary on the story as it develops.

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