Call to waive symphysiotomy time limit


The best way for the State to recognise the wrong done to women affected by symphysiotomy is to waive time limits for litigation and allow sufferers sue for compensation, the Dáil has heard.

Independent TD Thomas Pringle said “another expert report is being drafted in respect of a desperate situation” but the State should recognise the wrong done to these women and waive the statute of limitations.

Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore said the second and final report on the issue by academic researcher Prof Una Walsh was expected to be given to Government “shortly” and the Minister for Health was “determined to bring this matter to a satisfactory conclusion for all the women concerned as soon as possible”.

An estimated 1,500 women in Ireland underwent symphysiotomies, where the pelvis is broken to assist childbirth. The practice waned in most hospitals in the 1960s but continued in Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda, Co Louth, until 1984. Some 150 women of the 1,500 are still alive and have been campaigning for a number of years for the time limits on litigation to be waived.

Mr Gilmore insisted the purpose of the expert report “is not to drag out this issue but to enable the Government to make an informed decision about how to deal with it”.

He assured Mr Pringle that “as a Government we have decided to deal with this issue”. The Tánaiste said he was conscious of the distress and pain caused to the affected women and insisted the Government was committed to dealing with the women concerned sensitively “so that if at all possible closure can be achieved for them”.

Mr Pringle, TD for Donegal South-West, said the mistreatment of women under the State’s care “is nothing new” and for too long the State had failed women. For many of the women affected, “these operations were done without their prior knowledge or consent. They continue to call for justice and a recognition of the suffering they have endured as a result of this barbaric procedure.”