OPINION:A lobby group wants the statute of limitations to be temporarily lifted for survivors of what were covert, unnecessary and injurious operations.
Mon, Sep 17, 2012
A YOUNG, healthy woman expecting her second child, and a repeat Caesarean section, was admitted to a Dublin hospital in 1967. Operated upon 24 hours later, she was discharged after nine days, unable to walk. She now suffers from some of symphysiotomy’s known side-effects: chronic pain, a “crippled” back and incontinence.
A cruel and high-risk procedure, symphysiotomy – an operation to open a woman’s pelvis during difficult childbirth – severs the symphysis pubis, while pubiotomy (a variant) sunders the pubic bones.
An estimated 1,500 of these discredited operations were performed here between 1942 and 2005, mostly in Catholic teaching hospitals, but also in the Rotunda in Dublin. About 200 women survive today, many of them disabled. Symphysiotomy ruined lives and brought physical, emotional and sexual devastation. Long shunned internationally by doctors due to its dangers, symphysiotomy was revived in 1944 at the National Maternity Hospital (NMH) to replace Caesarean section in selected cases. Personal beliefs and medical ambition drove the Dublin experiment, which intensified at the International Missionary Training Hospital in Drogheda.