Symphysiotomy: Truth must be revealed

Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald spoke this week before the United Nations Human Rights Committee in Geneva about the "dreadful situation of the survivors of symphysiotomy".

This was the deliberate breaking of a woman’s pelvis in order to facilitate childbirth.

The minister explained that the Government has decided to establish an ex-gratia scheme for the 350 surviving victims to avoid the necessity of litigation. Most of these women have rejected this form of the quiet redress, because they want the truth to be known and fully understood.

Some 1,500 Irish women were subjected to this procedure rather than having a caesarian section. The stories are horrific. Nigel Rodley, a former UN special reporter on torture, said that he has had trouble sleeping at night since hearing these stories.

Survivors are determined to ensure this never happens again to any woman. If such medical butchery had been properly exposed in the 1940s, much needless suffering might have been avoided. In addition to the proposed redress scheme, these women are due an apology as well as a formal acknowledgement that what was done to them was totally wrong.


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