Sir, – As human rights lawyers we note with great concern the proposal that records of applicants to the symphysiotomy payment scheme would be shredded after March 20th.
This would reinforce the harm done to women by the physical and symbolic destruction of official medical records attesting to the abuse and harm they experienced.
Furthermore it would lead to the destruction of vital records and evidence that might be of assistance in future legal, historiographical and political processes of recording the symphysiotomy in Ireland and ensuring accountability for these instances of inhumane and harmful treatment.
The UN Human Rights Committee has called for a “prompt, independent and thorough investigation into cases of symphysiotomy” leading to prosecutions where appropriate.
It is likely that Ireland is under a positive obligation to hold such an inquiry under the European Convention on Human Rights.
That these records would be returned to the applicants to the scheme is, thus, of paramount importance.
We note that applicants to this scheme were obliged to provide “relevant supporting records”. They were not informed that these records would be destroyed, that they should send or retain certified copies, or that by applying to the scheme through submission of these records they were at risk of losing this documentary evidence of their medical mistreatment.
The limitations of data storage at hospitals are such that such records, if destroyed, might not be capable of retrieval elsewhere, and in some cases processes for accessing records can be so difficult to navigate as to be almost inaccessible.
Thus, we call on Ms Justice Harding Clark to reconsider this, and to ensure that all records are returned to the applicants to the scheme, by registered post, at the earliest possible date. Under no circumstances should they be destroyed.
We also endorse the call from Marie O’Connor of Survivors of Symphysiotomy that applicants to the scheme be asked for their consent to these records being archived.
– Yours, etc,
Prof FIONA DE LONDRAS,
University of Birmingham
Dr Liz Campbell, University of Edinburgh
Dr Susan Leahy, University of Limerick
Prof. Shane Kilcommins, University of Limerick
Dr Liam Thornton, University College Dublin
Dr Shane Darcy, Irish Centre for Human Rights, NUI Galway
Dr Mark Coen, University College Dublin
Prof. Aoife Nolan, University of Nottingham
Dr Brenda Daly, Dublin City University
Dr Aoife O’Donoghue, Durham University
Mairead Enright, University of Kent
Dr Illan Rua Wall, University of Warwick
Dr Catherine O’Sullivan, University College Cork
Dr Eimear Spain, University of Limerick
Dr Tanya ni Mhuirthile, Dublin City University
Prof. Siobhan Mullally, University College Cork
Emma Slattery BL, Barrister at Law
Dr Roderic O’Gorman, Dublin City University
Dr James Gallen, Dublin City University
Dr Alan DP Brady, Trinity College Dublin, Barrister at Law
Dr Aoife Duffy, Irish Centre for Human Rights, NUI Galway
Maeve O’Rourke, Barrister, 33 Bedford Row, London