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Dublin: 11 °C Monday 22 December, 2014

‘Appalling’, ‘ghastly’ and ‘brutal’ – doctors describe symphysiotomy ordeal

Medical professionals from around the world have come out in support in Ireland’s symphysiotomy survivors. Here’s what they had to say.

Symphysiotomy survivors leaving Leinster House last month.
Symphysiotomy survivors leaving Leinster House last month.
Image: Sasko Lazarov/Photocall Ireland

OVER 450 DOCTORS from around the world have signed a petition on behalf of the Irish women who underwent symphysiotomy operations in Ireland.

The 471 signatures and accompanying messages formed part of the 22,222 signatures that have called for the setting aside of the statute of limitations for survivors of the surgical procedure.

The chair of the Survivors of Symphysiotomy (SOS) group, Marie O’Connor, told TheJournal.ie that “the very act of signing the petition showed support from the doctors”.

“We have signatures from every state within the US and also from Britain – two countries that Ireland has strong medical links with,” O’Connor said.

Several [of the doctors] went so far as to say that the doctors should be struck off, while others compared the barbarity of the operation to something that Dr Josef Mengele would have carried out during World War II.

The petition was accepted yesterday by Sinn Féin deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin and Senator Jillian van Turnhout on behalf of the All Party Victims of Symphysiotomy Oireachtas Support Group.

The petition was handed in by Máirín J O’Moore, a symphysiotomy survivor who underwent her operation in 1950.

O’Connor said that she knew of several Irish doctors personally who had signed the petition but had not wanted to list the fact that they were doctors.

Messages of support

One Irish doctor who was happy to put his name to the petition was Dr Andrew Rynne, who in 1983 wrote to the DPP to inform him that he was breaking the then law and selling condoms directly to his patients at weekends when the local pharmacist was closed.

This disclosure led to him being fined £500.

He added the following message to the petition:

The way these women have been treated, then as now, is an appalling violation of their constitutional right to bodily integrity.

Some of the other messages of support which O’Connor shared with TheJournal.ie are listed below:

A criminal act, reminiscent of Dr Mengele and outwith medical ethics, for which the known surviving perpetrators should undoubtedly be prosecuted. – Dr Owen Murphy, UK
Had this been done to my wife, I would be raging with fury. Any doctors who took part in these ghastly exercises should be struck off. The government (State) with which the buck stops must be involved. – Dr David Marchesi, UK
Ireland has a despicable record on its care for women, from abuse in children’s homes, birth control and pregnancy services. Many of us are appalled at the recent death of a young woman denied an abortion of her dead baby. Time to abandon the Mediaeval mind-set. – Dr. Nigel Drew, UK
Symphysiotomy is a brutal butchery carried out on human beings by perverted barbarians. Jail the perpetrators and respect the legal rights of the victims. – Dr Robert Janusko, Pennsylvania, US
I had never heard of such beastly cruelty and complete lack of concern for the well-being of the mother as evidenced in the report on symphysiotomies in Ireland! It makes me ashamed that I am of irish [sic] descent! – Dr Virginia Bennett, Hawaii, US
No more visits for us to Ireland until they fix this problem. I did no realize that being a catholic required total ignorance. Dr. Mayra Luria, Florida, US
There was no justifiable reason for this. This is not a tragedy, it is a crime. The women abused in this manner deserve justice. Now. – Dr Diane Kupelian, Maryland, US

Read: Symphysiotomy survivors gather to recount stories of torture >

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