Tell Ireland to Stop Obstructing Justice for Symphysiotomy Victims

  • By: Susan V
  • Target: Government of the Republic of Ireland

Symphysiotomy is a crippling surgical procedure involving the forcible breaking of the pelvis during childbirth. Meant for only extreme cases, it has been replaced by Caesarean section, except in countries where this procedure is unavailable.

But as disabled Survivors of Symphysiotomy (SOS) are now revealing, the practice continued in some Irish hospitals until 1984, and in some cases made no sense at all. One survivor testified that the procedure, which is meant to aide only obstructed labor, was used when she delivered a child that weighed only four pounds.

SOS chairperson Marie O‘ Connor says the operations were “covert” and “performed without consent,” and she sees symphysiotomy as the “biggest human rights scandal in Ireland.“ The government has stonewalled“ survivors, she adds, forcing them to resort to courts that impose statutes of limitation on their claims.

Tell the Irish government to lift the statute bar to allow all symphysiotomy victims access to the courts.

We, the undersigned, join with SOS in demanding redress for the victims of this torturing practice of symphysiotomy that continued in Ireland apparently long after other procedures made it unnecessary.

These SOS victims have suffered for years as a result of the practice, all or most claiming crippling effects, testifying to knee replacements, bad backs, incontinence, depression and symptoms associated with PTSD. Apparently most were awake during the procedure, one witness testifying to watching in horror as the blood spurted from her pelvis after the doctor accidentally cut an artery with what she described as a “hacksaw.”

Adding to these atrocities is the fact that this extended torture was kept secret for so long and came to light only because of a recent film documenting the practice which continues today in Kenya. As The Journal.ie reports:



The makers of Mothers Against the Odds initially proposed to examine the experiences of pregnant women in Kenya but that “opened their eyes to the virtually hidden histories of a number of Irish mothers, who were forced to endure a level of cruelty, up to recent times, that was both shocking and incomprehensible.

There is no excuse for the Irish courts to block these women from seeking the justice they deserve after having endured this butchery and its crippling effects. Therefore we request the Irish government act quickly to lift the statute that would block these victims from having their day in court. 

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