Symphysiotomy controversy still not resolved, Dáil hears

Minister for Health will bring proposals to Government ‘in the coming weeks’


More sufferers of symphysiotomy have died since Minister for Health James Reilly met their representatives two months ago and the issue has still not been resolved, the Dáil has heard.

Fianna Fáil TD Seamus Kirk said the Government needed to accelerate and address the matter as quickly as possible.

But Minister of State for Health Alex White said Dr Reilly would bring proposals to Government “in the coming weeks”.

He said the Minister intended to publish the Walsh report on the matter “when the Government has had an opportunity to consider the matter and approve an approach regarding how best to proceed”.

The report, by professor Una Walsh, is based on interviews with and submissions from survivors of symphysiotomy, where women had their pelvises broken unnecessarily, as an alternative to a caesarean section, and suffered life-long ill-health as a result. The practice continued in Ireland until the 1990s.

Mr Kirk said however that the Minister promised in August to publish the Walsh report, to appoint a judge and to establish a redress arrangement. The Louth TD said there were between 232 and 250 women in their late 50s to 90s directly affected by the issue.

“Unfortunately some survivors have died even since the meeting in August last. Many of the people involved fear the prospect of going to court. Many are frail at this stage. Furthermore, files are missing or incomplete,” he said.

Mr White said “it should be acknowledged that this is a complex issue for the Government to address. I am aware that legal proceedings have been initiated in more than 100 cases but the Minister is not a party to these proceedings. In addition, complex legal issues regarding liability have yet to be resolved.”

Mr Kirk said the issue had been around since 2004 and had been on the agenda since then. “The sooner the Government considers the Walsh report and what is to be done subsequently the better, because we need to bring comfort and solace to the people involved.”

The Minister said Mr Kirk was right on this and he shared his sentiments. He believed the matter would be brought to a conclusion as soon as possible and pointed out that the women continued to receive care and attention, including full GMS eligibility, independent clinical advice, appropriate follow-up care such as medical, gynaecological and orthopaedic assessment, counselling, physiotherapy, reflexology, home help, acupuncture and osteopathy.