Symphysiotomy inquiry ruled out

Friday 19 February 2010 19.49
Mary Harney - Called on to order review
Mary Harney - Called on to order review

The Minister for Health has ruled out any review of the use of symphysiotomy in Irish hospitals.

The group Survivors of Symphysiotomy had called on Taoiseach Brian Cowen to initiate an immediate inquiry into use of the pelvis-severing childbirth surgery in Ireland.

Decades after the practice was discontinued in developed countries, symphysiotomies were still carrried out in Irish maternity units.

The development follows last night's RTÉ Prime Time programme, which documented that Ireland is the only country in the developed world where symphysiotomy was widely practiced in the 20th century.

The programme found that these operations were widespread from 1944 to 1983.

The investigation established that 1,500 women underwent the procedure here, which involved sawing through the pelvic bone to assist with childbirth. Patient permission was rarely sought.

It frequently left the women with chronic physical pain and incontinence. The procedure was abandoned in most maternity units in the 1960s, but continued until 1983 in Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Droghheda.

The survivors' group has called for the removal from office of Minister for Health Mary Harney if she will not order a review of the cases.

The minister said reviews are carried out to improve care for patients and as symphysiotomy was superseded by Caesarean section in the 1980s, any review would not now be productive.