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Symphysiotomy in the Courts: Kearney v. McQuillan

On Friday the Supreme Court cleared the way for Louth woman Olivia Kearney to bring an action in respect of the symphysiotomy which was performed on her in Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital Drogheda in 1969, when she was 18.  The judgment is here. We blogged about the question of symphysiotomy in February. The Minister for Health has since commissioned a report into the practice from the Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists. Although symphysiotomy is often argued to be justified where it would be dangerous for a woman to attempt to deliver her baby without it, Ms. Kearney was – for reasons which are not clear – subjected to the operation after the birth. Her argument is that ‘there was no justification whatever, in any circumstances, for the performance of symphysiotomy on the plaintiff at the time it was performed and following delivery by caesarean section’. The hospital, as Hardiman J. noted, will be able to ‘defend the case by establishing in credible evidence some realistic reason for the procedure in the circumstances actually prevailing in relation to the plaintiff in 1969’.