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Survivor of Symphysiotomy: 'It was 12 months before I could walk, people have no idea'

The group handed in a letter to the Taoiseach’s office today.

Image: Cliodhna Russell via TheJournal.ie

SURVIVORS OF SYMPHYSIOTOMY were demonstrating outside Government Buildings this afternoon calling for the Health Minister and Taoiseach to listen to its concerns.

It comes after the UN human rights committee said Ireland should identify, prosecute and punish those responsible for the procedures without patient consent.

In July of this year the Government established an ex-gratia payment scheme for the 350 women who have undergone surgical symphysiotomy which will cost around €34million – it also said it would commit to the continued provision of medical services, including Medical Cards for the women.

Josephine Kerr (80) told TheJournal.ie, “I think the government should hurry up with the redress scheme. People are getting older and a lot of us won’t see it – it’s been a long battle.”

One lady in the crowd was 93, approximately 70 people came out to demonstrate, many elderly and in wheelchairs.

Chairperson of Survivors of Symphysiotomy, Marie O’Connor, said that as it stands, “There is to be no independent public inquiry…no admission of wrongdoing.”

Women will be required to sign away their legal and constitutional rights as a condition of entry to the scheme, before they know how much money they will be offered.

Another woman in the crowd said “We want the redress scheme to work, I think we’ve been treated very badly. I had mine in 1966 and to think we’re still fighting all these years later – it should be done by now. We really want justice.”

Speaking about the procedure she said:

“It was in 1961 in the old Coombe Hospital- they say you were told about the operation, I knew nothing about the operation until it was done and finished.

What the sister said to me was – ‘You have to have a slight operation’, a slight operation and to breath in and out through this thing. It was 12 months before I could walk, the only way I could get around was on the kitchen chair. They have no idea what people went through.

The group handed in a letter to the Taoiseach’s office today.

Survivor of Symphysiotomy: 'It was 12 months before I could walk, people have no idea'
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  • Survivors of Symphysiotomy

    Chairperson Survivors of Symphysiotomy, Marie O'Connor with survivors outside Government Buildings.
  • Survivors of Symphysiotomy

    Survivors of Symphysiotomy outside Government Buildings.
  • Survivors of Symphysiotomy

    Survivors of Symphysiotomy preparing to deliver a letter to Taoiseach Enda Kenny outside Government Buildings this morning.
  • Survivors of Symphysiotomy

    Survivors of Symphysiotomy preparing to deliver a letter to Taoiseach Enda Kenny outside Government Buildings this morning.
  • Survivors of Symphysiotomy

    Survivors of Symphysiotomy outside Government Buildings.
  • Survivors of Symphysiotomy

    Survivors of Symphysiotomy outside Government Buildings.Source: Cliodhna Russell via TheJournal.ie

O’Connor said, “​We have actively been seeking to enter into talks with Government for the past two years but no meaningful engagement has ever taken place.”

However the Health Department told TheJournal.ie, “The Minister has examined all aspects of the symphysiotomy issue over the summer recess and looks forward to meeting all three groups as soon as details of the scheme are finalised in the coming weeks.”

O’Connor added that there is a conflict of interest for the State Claims Agency to control the scheme as it is ”an arm of government charged with saving the government money”.

The agency will be expected to keep costs as low as possible and they can only do this by cutting payments to the bone…contrary to what the UN recommended, there will be no individualised assessment, so no distinction will be made between women who were grievously injured and those who were not.

Survivor testimony and medical records show that symphysiotomy was a planned procedure.’

Read: Symphysiotomy survivors seek DPP referrals in wake of UN report>

Read: UN tells Ireland to open an investigation into symphysiotomy>

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