'Barbaric' surgery continues
Disgraced obstetrician accuses women victims of 'smelling money'
Published 19/02/2010 | 05:00
Disgraced doctor Michael Neary has accused women who underwent a "barbaric" obstetric procedure of "smelling money".
The doctor was struck off the register for wrongly removing the wombs of his patients at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda over some 20 years.
Confronted about another procedure known as symphysiotomy, the obstetrician asked: "Is it the smell of money that is getting at them?"
He was asked to comment by a reporter from RTE's 'Prime Time', who was investigating the use of symphysiotomies which stopped in most places in the early 1960s but continued to be performed in the Drogheda hospital until 1983.
Dr Neary said he never performed the operation but several women told the RTE programme he did. He said in an interview that he treated women in his clinic after having the operation and none had reported complications.
Symphysiotomy was employed in several maternity units in Ireland from 1920 to the early 1980s to increase the size of a woman's pelvis and allow delivery of their baby.
But it left healthy women suffering a range of problems, including incontinence and immobility.
According to the department, it is still "occasionally" being used in the rare event of a mother delivering a breech baby and the head becoming blocked in the pelvis.
Although an independent review of the practice was promised to the Survivors of Symphysiotomy group in 2003, it never took place after being beset by problems, mainly the failure to get an agreed expert to conduct the inquiry.
Nearly three years ago Health Minister Mary Harney said she did not consider that a review would be of benefit. A spokesman for the department said yesterday that she had not changed her mind and that it would not be productive to initiate a review.
Former chairman of the Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, Prof John Bonnar, told the programme he was unaware the procedure was performed in Drogheda up to the early 1980s.
It was alleged that it was used there for so long in order to train doctors at the hospital who were going to work in Africa.
The Human Rights Commission had originally said it would conduct a review into the practice but it later revised this decision.
The spokesman said that in January 2006 the minister met with the chairperson of the support group to discuss the progress made in relation to various issues raised by the women. "A number of items were discussed, including the question of an independent reviewer.
"Previous attempts were made, unsuccessfully, to appoint a suitable candidate to carry out the review."
Several women who underwent the procedure and have suffered health complications since featured on the 'Prime Time' programme.
Since 2003, a health package has been available to around 100 women who suffer the effects of the procedures.
These include a public health nurse providing incontinence pads and the reimbursement of expenses for medication and private treatments.
Any of the women who request a medical card is given one.
The programme said the HSE claimed records showed 188 of these operations took place in the Drogheda hospital but it obtained information showing the number was nearer 400.