Report on 'brutal' childbirth surgery requested


MINISTER FOR Health Mary Harney has asked the Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists to prepare a report for her by the end of April on the practice of symphysiotomy in Irish hospitals from the 1960s onwards.

She has said the report should provide the institute’s assessment of the circumstances in which symphysiotomy was carried out in Irish obstetric units, indicate what protocols or guidance existed over the years to guide professional practice, and specify when the practice changed, and why.

Survivors of Symphysiotomy (SOS), a support group for women who underwent the surgical procedure to permanently widen the pelvis for childbirth, have been seeking an independent inquiry into what they say was a long outdated “brutal” practice, which left many women in pain and incontinent for life. The practice continued here until the early 1980s.

SOS also says Ms Harney’s request for a report on this matter is insufficient, and they are concerned about the institute compiling it, as it had previously provided a report to the Department of Health in 2001 saying “excellent results” were claimed for symphysiotomy. That report suggested the practice had been ended, except in rare cases, by 1960.

However, Sheila O’Connor of Patient Focus, which also represents symphysiotomy survivors, said she regarded the report from the institute as a preliminary look at the practice, and that it should go ahead. She said Patient Focus, when it meets the institute shortly, will stress its belief that an expert from Britain or Northern Ireland should be involved in compiling the report, and that it should not confine itself to the 1960s on.

In a separate development, former Drogheda obstetrician Michael Neary, who was struck off the medical register in 2003 over unnecessarily removing the wombs of 10 patients, said he believes women who underwent Caesarean hysterectomies at the Lourdes hospital were only awarded redress by Judge Maureen Harding Clark to “get rid” of them.

He has never accepted any wrongdoing, and again on RTÉ’s Prime Timeon Tuesday night continued to protest his innocence.