Victims of symphysiotomy, a practice in which doctors broke women’s pelvises to ease childbirth without their consent, have called for Dáil support in their bid for justice and compensation.
Campaigner Marie O’Connor accused medical professionals of depriving women of a caesarean section, which they regarded as an artificial form of contraception.
“Doctors were using a scalpel to control women’s reproductive ways, stopping them from having a much safer caesarean section,” said Ms O’Connor. “Women can have no more than around four caesareans, so doctors effectively saw them as birth control, a way of capping the family number.”
Women were left permanently disabled after the medieval procedure of symphysiotomy, which was carried out on some 1,500 Irish women between 1944 and 1992. It has long been banned in the developed world.
Ms O’Connor, spokes-woman for the National Membership Organisation for Survivors of Symphysiotomy, was among some 20 victims in the Dáil yesterday. She addressed the Justice Committee, which was discussing the group’s draft bill proposing to amend the statute of limitations, which could lift a bar preventing survivors from seeking redress through the courts.
“These cases go back 20, 30, 40, 50, 60 years,” said Ms O’Connor, ahead of the committee meeting. “These were covert operations. Women were given no information prior to surgery, no information after surgery. These were involuntary operations. There was no informed consent.”
Women were left with permanent ailments, including incontinence, chronic pain, prolapsed organs, and neurological and psychological problems.
The symphysiotomy procedure was performed in preference to the safer and more standard caesarean section as recently as 1994.