An Irish woman who had a symphysiotomy performed after childbirth in 1969 has been awarded €450,000 ($600,000) for medical negligence.
Symphysiotomy was a procedure to break the pelvis during a difficult birth and was carried out on about 1,500 women in Ireland between 1944 and 1992.
An Irish parliamentary hearing has heard how the barbaric practise took place. Many doctors, encouraged by the Catholic Church, apparently carried it out because it was felt that it gave a better opportunity than Caesarean births for the mother to become pregnant again.
The lobby group Survivors of Symphysiotomy said it was a deliberately performed procedure.
“Symphysiotomy was a maverick practice, a barbarous procedure that should never have been performed except in the direst of emergencies.
“The surgery was exhumed at the National Maternity Hospital by doctors who were hostile to the idea of family planning and who were looking to replace Caesarean sections with an operation that would facilitate large families.”
Cavan-Monaghan TD Heather Humphries (FG) said she felt "physically sick" when women told how they were "restrained, with their arms pulled back and held down for the procedure to take place".
She said: "The stories we heard last night were like something you would have heard happening in a remote part of the Third World in an almost ritualistic way.
"When I heard how women were actually shown a saw before it was used on them, I was horrified."
Awarding the damages, Mr Justice Sean Ryan said the 60-year-old had experienced a life of pain, discomfort and embarrassment due to the unnecessary procedure.
According to a report in the Irish Examiner, Olivia Kearney was just 18 when the controversial procedure was carried out at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Co. Louth, after the delivery of her son by caesarean section.
The Louth resident realized in 2002 that she had been subjected to the procedure when she heard a radio program about women’s experiences of symphiosotomy.
According to the report “Bodily Harm: Symphysiotomy and Pubiotomy in Ireland 1944-92” published last June, up to 1,500 symphysiotomies were carried out on women who gave birth in the Republic from 1944 and 1984.
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