Saturday 18 January 2020

Review into archaic operation a step closer

Eilish O'Regan and Brian McDonald

THE possibility of a review into an obstetric procedure which left scores of women suffering lifelong health problems moved a step closer last night.

The body representing the country's obstetricians said it would be willing to have talks with Health Minister Mary Harney and her officials after she ruled out a State inquiry but suggested the doctors could have a role in examining the practice of symphysiotomy.

Chairman of the Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists Dr Michael O'Dowd told the Irish Independent: "We feel for these women and are very sorry that this has hurt their lives".

Earlier, the support group for women who underwent symphysiotomy, a painful procedure which widened the pelvis during childbirth, delivered an emotional plea at a press conference asking the minister to carry out a review.

Kathleen Naughton (58) from Duleek, Co Meath, said an immediate inquiry would be held into the horrific symphysiotomy procedure if the minister felt her distress for a day.

"If she was in my body for one day we'd have the review the next day, that's the truth," she said.

"That day 33 years ago, evil hit my body and that evil has not left me -- my career, everything has diminished because of what happened to me.

"The State has neglected us. We're fighting for everything and they're putting all these blocks in front of us."


Mrs Nugent underwent the procedure at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, in Drogheda, where it was used up to the 1980s, although all other hospitals ended it nearly 20 years earlier.

The Survivors of Symphysiotomy said the Government had ignored the plight of many mothers left with long-term health problems including incontinence, back pain and depression.

Mrs Nugent told the gathering, which called for the resignation of the minister, that an inquiry would mean that people would believe women.

"It's not about money," she added.

"I have chronic back pains and I can't really walk or play with my grandchildren. I never questioned the doctors at the time. They were gods -- or at least they thought they were."

The minister said she did not see the Government instigating an inquiry, but there might well be a role for the Institute of Obstetricians.

Dr O'Dowd said there is already a mechanism within the obstetricians' body to carry out a form of review.

Marie O' Connor, spokeswoman for the survivors, stressed last night it would have to be external and independent.

Irish Independent

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