Symphysiotomy appeal test case gets under way

An appeal over rejection of a woman’s claim an unjustified symphysiotomy was performed on her when she was 24 in 1963, days before her first baby was born, has opened at the Court of Appeal.

The case by the now 76-year-old woman is seen as a test case for actions over symphysiotomy, a procedure involving breaking the pelvis to facilitate easier delivery.

Her counsel, Ciaran Craven, disputed there was adequate evidence of such disproportion between the size of the woman’s pelvis and the baby’s head to justify the medical view that it was inappropriate to allow labour to be attempted before opting for symphysiotomy.

The evidence did not establish symphysiotomy was a “generally approved” practise when this one was carried out in 1963 at a Dublin hospital and did not support the courts being “sanguine” about effects of the procedure, he argued.

Emily Egan, counsel for the hospital, argued a 1963 practise cannot be viewed “through 2016 spectacles” and the evidence was this symphysiotomy arose from a medical view vaginal delivery was not possible. If the three Dublin teaching hospitals were practising this procedure on a limited basis in 1963, that was evidence of a reputable body of opinion practising it, she said.

The appeal is expected to conclude on Wednesday.


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