No inquiry into symphysiotomy, says Harney

Newsy

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The Health Minister said today that the Government will not be carrying out an inquiry into the practice of symphysiotomy.

The medical procedure involves the breaking of a woman's pelvis during pregnancy or childbirth, and was carried out on some 1,500 Irish women between the 1950s and 1980s.

Earlier today, the group Survivors of Symphysiotomy called on the Minister to carry out an inquiry.


Read more: No inquiry into symphysiotomy, says Harney | BreakingNews.ie


The Survivors of Symphysiotomy (SOS) group today called for Health Minister Mary Harney to be sacked if she does not order an independent review of a controversial surgical procedure which left hundreds of women disabled.

Symphysiotomies were widely carried out in maternity units in Ireland between the early 1940s and the early 1980s. The procedure involves permanently widening the pelvis by surgically dividing the symphysis pubis, where the pubic bones come together.

The calls come following a Prime Time special on RTE last night which revealed that symphysiotomies were widespread here between 1944 and 1983. The programme also revealed that Ireland was the only country in the developed world where the procedure was widely practised in the 20th century.

At a press conference today organised by SOS, symphysiotomy was described as a "brutal and cruel treatment from the darkest ages", and the practice was described as "institutionalised abuse of women."

It is estimated it may have been carried out on around 1,500 women.

Around 111 women who were victims of symphysiotomy have come forward to date, and there are expected to be many more women suffering for years from the serious side effects of the procedure, which include extreme pain, incontinence and depression. Around 1,500 women are estimated to have had the procedure.

The SOS group claims the procedure was carried out in Ireland when it had long ceased in other countries. It is reported that it ceased in Holles Street Hospital in the mid-1960s, although there have been claims that it continued there until the early 1970s.

Symphysiotomies continued in Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda until 1983.

It is believed that the procedure was encouraged by Catholic obstetricians as a birth-facilitating alternative to caesarean section, as it was believed that women facing repeated caesareans for future births might be tempted to use contraception.

'Harney should go on barbaric op issue'

Here we go.....Hareny won't allow an inquiry.

As a Minister for Health, I find mary harney, unbelievable. I wonder, at times, does she really know the meaning of the word 'health'.....it involves, care, compassion, healing, empathy......but all harney can say to these women, who were brutalised, is 'NO'.
 


drkpower

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Im inclined to agree with an Inquiry but does noone think it is somewhat unusual that both Dr Peter Boylan, former Master of Holles St, and Dr John Bonnar, Former RCOG chair, have defended the procedure pre-1980s?

And before people start 'doing a Neary', both are highly and widely respected obstetricians.
 

GabhaDubh

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Newsy; After reading your posting, I am seating here at my computer, shaking my head. What sort of country did we grow up in. Have we been just generations of lambs, subservient in all regards.
 

Didimus

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Here's a link to a 2002 study by a Swedish doctor
Minimally invasive surgery for obstructed labour: ... [BJOG. 2002] - PubMed result
A quote from the abstract:
"Symphysiotomy compares favourably with caesarean section in terms of risk for the mother's life. CONCLUSION: If valid conclusions can be drawn from one hundred years of retrospective studies, there is considerable evidence to support a reinstatement of symphysiotomy in the obstetric arsenal, for the benefit of women in obstructed labour and their offspring."
 

Newsy

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Newsy; After reading your posting, I am seating here at my computer, shaking my head. What sort of country did we grow up in. Have we been just generations of lambs, subservient in all regards.
GabhaDubh, it would appear so. As a country, we have so much to come to terms with, so much to heal from, so much to unearth to help that healing and unfortunately, at times fight for healing, eventual healing to take place....healing of the soul/spirit.

I never knew there was such a practice, till yesterday......it shocked me. I made a vow last night, that if it wasn't here tonight, I would post on it. It is the only thing I can do to help these women.

The only thing that gives me hope, is that 'secrets' are coming out....the Murphy Report, the Ryan Report and the unspeakable torture and sexual abuse. Now these women are pushing for an inquiry and that is good. As a country, we are growing up, as difficult as that is.
 

Sync

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Can anyone argue with Harney's point?

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.
She's the health minister. What benefit will the area of her responsibility gain from an inquiry into a practice that finished in most cases 50 years ago and in one hospital 27 years ago?
 

Didimus

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Newsy:
Such practices as you call them are medical procedures. I posted a link which put forward a rationale for a restoration of this procedure in the options used by obstrecticians today. If I described a c-section as involving a docor using a scalpel to rip open a woman to snatch out a baby it would indeed sound horrific.
Which is not to say that the use of symphysiotomy in Ireland was in all cases medically justified, or the that the post-operative care was adequate.
 

GabhaDubh

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Newsy; Why in Ireland, is it always an uphill battle. Dark secrets hidden away, buried by the powers that be. Our betters, dictating the peons course of life, with no regard for the individual rights of man, women or child.
 

Newsy

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Can anyone argue with Harney's point?



She's the health minister. What benefit will the area of her responsibility gain from an inquiry into a practice that finished in most cases 50 years ago and in one hospital 27 years ago?
Why e.g. was it continued in one hospital, long after it was discontinued in all others?

That certainly would be part of an inquiry.
 

Sync

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But what's the benefit it would bring to the current patients? If there's allegations of it being illegal then fine let it come from a different department's budget. It just seems like an inappropriate use of very limited health funding.

For instance, let's say the inquiry costs 50 million, and keeping in mind that pay rates are locked down in union agreements, which service should be cut back from the current patients? If you DO find that 50 million, aren't there better uses for it in serving current patients in need as opposed to an inquiry in a 27 year old matter with no displayed relevance to the current department?
 

Newsy

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Newsy; Why in Ireland, is it always an uphill battle. Dark secrets hidden away, buried by the powers that be. Our betters, dictating the peons course of life, with no regard for the individual rights of man, women or child.
GabhaDubh, there's a question and a half!!! We have a long way to go to really appreciate that each one is sacred.....but first of all we need to know the pain of our collective and national wounds. I have no idea, why it always appears that it is an uphill battle, all I know is that we have a duty to those who have gone before us to make things better (humanistically) for those who come after us.
 

Didimus

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Why e.g. was it continued in one hospital, long after it was discontinued in all others?

That certainly would be part of an inquiry.
Indeed it would. We have some form on this hospitals obstetrics dept already. It indicates that procedures carried out in Drogheda deviated from the national norm.
And anyone who can put forward a reasonable case that they suffered unnecessarily by such treatment is deserving both of our sympathy and of acknowledgement of their suffering by the state which underwrote such treatment, as well as appropriate compensation.
 

Newsy

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But what's the benefit it would bring to the current patients? If there's allegations of it being illegal then fine let it come from a different department's budget. It just seems like an inappropriate use of very limited health funding.

For instance, let's say the inquiry costs 50 million, and keeping in mind that pay rates are locked down in union agreements, which service should be cut back from the current patients? If you DO find that 50 million, aren't there better uses for it in serving current patients in need as opposed to an inquiry in a 27 year old matter with no displayed relevance to the current department?
With all due respect, there is more to life than money. I wouldn't be an advocate of such an inquiry costing the earth, but as citizens of the state, these women are intitled to have their questions answered and their concerns addressed.
They also have the right to know who made such decisions and on what basis these decisions were made.
 

Newsy

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Indeed it would. We have some form on this hospitals obstetrics dept already. It indicates that procedures carried out in Drogheda deviated from the national norm.
And anyone who can put forward a reasonable case that they suffered unnecessarily by such treatment is deserving both of our sympathy and of acknowledgement of their suffering by the state which underwrote such treatment, as well as appropriate compensation.
I saw a clip from RTE last evening with the mention of Neary.

I am NOT a medical person, but that question as to why is continued in one long after it had ended in others is a huge issue of concern.

I saw a clip from RTE tonight with a woman who had this medical procedure done and she has suffered a great deal of pain all of her life.

These people want answers and I think they are entitled to them.
 

Didimus

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Newsy:
Just noticed your tag thingy re hurt/honour. All with you re hurt, but the honour thing is a bit worrying.
In a mafia/Borat stereotypimg of traditional societies type of way.
 

Sync

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With all due respect, there is more to life than money. I wouldn't be an advocate of such an inquiry costing the earth, but as citizens of the state, these women are intitled to have their questions answered and their concerns addressed.
They also have the right to know who made such decisions and on what basis these decisions were made.
More to life than money? Not in the health department there isn't. The money actually equals life in many cases there. Mary Harney has a job to do with scarce resources. How will spending the money you're saying SHE should spend from her department help her patients?

As an aside, what are the possible outcomes of this? That doctors mistakenly thought this was a better option than caesareans longer than they should have? I'm sure they'll stipulate that right now. That Irish doctors weren't as well trained as English and American ones in 1963? How on earth can you justify taking millions of health budget money away from services to investigate that?

Now if there's evidence that a current, practising doctor was doing it in 1983, long past when everyone else had finished, there may be cause for a hearing on his actions, but again, he'll just say "I did what I judged best, and stand over my record for the last 27 years"
 


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