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Symphysiotomy group seeks access to compensation over botched operations

WOMEN who survived the brutal procedure of symphysiotomy in childbirth are calling on government TDs to support their bid to change the law so they can seek compensation in the courts.

They are asking TDs to support a bill proposing to lift the statute of limitations, which is preventing many of their members from going to court.


Successive governments have rejected demands for an independent inquiry. The Minister for Health, James Reilly, has commissioned an independent report on the practice.


However Marie O’Connor, spokesperson for Survivors of Symphysiotomy, said: “Last year, many Government Deputies and Senators condemned this surgery as barbaric and savage and explicitly supported the temporary lifting of the bar, which will simply facilitate access to the courts for survivors.”


She called on all Oireachtas members “to hold true to their convictions and previously expressed positions and to support the Bill next Tuesday and Wednesday.”


The procedure, which continued in Ireland up to 1992, involved sawing a pregnant woman’s pelvis in half to help in childbirth. The operation left hundreds of woman with serious long term health issues, including chronic pain.


The Bill – to be introduced by an all-party group on Tuesday – is modelled on similar legislation passed 12 years ago to allow victims of child sex abuse in residential institutions to seek compensation.


The survivors group said have dismissed the report as an “irrelevance” that is unlikely to shed light on the practice of symphysiotomy.”


The Minister for Justice, Alan Shatter, signalled last week that he expects the issue to be addressed by the health minister. A number of Fine Gael and Labour TDs have stridently criticised the practice symphysiotomy in the past. They include Jan O’Sullivan, the Labour minister for state who proposed changing the statute of limitations for child abuse victims, who called it a barbaric practice. The Fine Gael TD, Heather Humphries, has also called for lifting the statute of limitations to allow the women seek redress through the courts.


Bernard Durkan, the Fine Gael TD, described the practice as “archaic and savage”.

Online Editors