Survivors of Symphysiotomy take campaign to the United Nations

Tuesday 11 March 2014 22.49
Symphysiotomy was a controversial surgical procedure used to enlarge the pelvis during labour
Symphysiotomy was a controversial surgical procedure used to enlarge the pelvis during labour

An organisation representing survivors of symphysiotomy is taking a complaint against the Government to the United Nations.

Survivors of Symphysiotomy has filed documents with the UN Committee Against Torture and the UN Human Rights Committee.

Symphysiotomy was a controversial surgical procedure used to enlarge the pelvis during labour.

Most of the operations were carried out between 1940 and the 1960s. But at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda, the practice continued until 1984.

Last November, the Government appointed Judge Yvonne Murphy to examine the feasibility of setting up a redress scheme for survivors, but campaigners say the State has failed in its duty to protect the women.

Barrister for Survivors of Symphysiotomy Michael Lynn said: "We believe the Government is in continuing violation of its obligations under international law.

"There has been no full, thorough, and impartial investigation into what happened."

The survivors' group said it hopes legal proceedings issued on behalf of more than 200 women will come before the courts this year.

In the meantime, Judge Murphy is expected to report back to Minister for Health James Reilly within the next few weeks.

Ellen Moore from Ballyvaughan in Co Clare said: "It’s a pity we have to step outside our own country to look for justice."

Marie O'Connor, chairperson of Survivors of Symphysiotomy, told RTÉ's Morning Edition that in the 15 years since the abusive operations were exposed, the State has failed to acknowledge that the operations were wrong.

She said that no "effective remedy" is available to the women under the ex-gratia redress scheme proposed by former Circuit Court judge Yvonne O'Keeffe.

Ms O'Connor said: "No redress scheme can actually meet the requirement for an effective remedy and we've seen that very recently in the O'Keeffe case.

"That's because this is to be an ex-gratia scheme, which by definition does not admit liability and therefore fails to admit wrongdoing."