Tuesday 21 November 2017

Woman (74) claims 'no justification' for controversial surgical procedure 12 days before her baby's birth in 1960s, High Court hears

The case was in the high court
The case was in the high court

Tim Healy

A 74-YEAR-old woman claims there was no justification for a controversial surgical procedure performed on her 12 days before the birth of her baby at a Dublin hospital in the 1960s, the High Court heard.

The woman told Mr Justice Kevin Cross she could not bond with her daughter afterwards because she could not even lift her out of her cot as a result of the symphysiotomy procedure which involves the breaking of the pelvis.

She said she felt very disillusioned, later had a nervous breakdown and "took to her bed" for a time.

This is the second case to come before the court in which it was claimed there was no justification for a symphysiotomy.

Last week, a 71-year old  woman settled her action against a hospital over the procedure carried out after the birth of her first baby over fifty years ago.

Opening the case Wednesday (Feb 11), the woman's counsel John Rogers  said she  had a non emergency symphysiotomy  which has left her with life long pain, incontinence and restricted mobility.

It was contended that it was a remarkable feature of the case that the symphysiotomy was carried out before the birth and indicates "it was a totally unnecessary procedure without justification", he said.

The hospital contends the proceedings are statute barred and the woman signed a consent form to any operation or anaesthetic that may be necessary during her time in the hospital.

The woman's baby was born on October 7, 1963.

In evidence, she said a doctor told her they were going to help her have her baby and she got an injection.

She woke up back in bed and she thought at first he had had her baby . When she tried to go to the toilet she said it felt like her body was split in half.

"I started to scream and had to be helped back to  bed and a doctor came in his pyjamas " she told the judge.

She had the  mistaken belief she had her baby, she said.

The woman said she was on a lot of painkillers and did not recall  having her baby 12 days later on October 7, 1963.

When she got home, her aunt and mother had to help her with the baby as she could not  even lift her daughter out of the cot.

"I was not able to lift her or feed her properly.

"I was not able to get myself out of bed. It went on for about three months," she said.

"I did not know what they had done. It was never explained to me," she said.

She said she and her husband planned to have about four children  but the operation changed her life, though she later had a second child.

The case continues.

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