START A PETITION 27,000,000 members: the world's largest community for good
Apr 1, 2013
Focus: Human Rights
Action Request: Petition
Location: Ireland

We have just 48 hours to reach our target for our petition "Tell the Government to Stop Obstructing Justice for Survivors of Symphysiotomy". The Bill setting aside the Statute of Limitations for survivors of this abusive surgery is imminent. 

Our petition to set aside the statute bar expires next Wednesday, 4 April, at 12 noon Irish time. We need over 20,000 signatures to complement what Survivors of Symphysiotomy have personally collected in Ireland face to face. 

A little known but crippling childbirth operation that unhinges the pelvis, symphysiotomy was performed by certain doctors in Ireland instead of Caesarean section, which was seen to cap family size and lead to birth control. Medical training and experimentation also drove the surgery.

Ireland was the only country in the developed world in the mid to late 20th century to practise symphysiotomy in preference to Caesarean section. Regulators looked the other way.

Now in their 70s and 80s, survivors have been seeking truth and justice for over a decade. In vain. Official indifference has now forced them to go the legal route. But taking action over a wrongful operation - however mutilating - carried out 40 years ago is fraught with difficulty. Lifting the statute bar to justice would help speed up the process.        

Around 1,500 women have gone to their graves without ever seeing justice. Bridget is one of them: she passed away in 2011. This petition is dedicated to her. 

Bridget was subjected to symphysiotomy on her 13th child in 1962 at the Coombe Hospital, Dublin. Many years later, she wrote how she had to go home - unable to walk - to look after her other twelve children. She suffered all her life with severe back ache and described the doctors who did the operation as 'butchers'. There was no medical emergency in her case.  Bridget was not asked for her consent, nor was she told what the doctors were going to do. 

These were covert operations that breached human, constitutional and other rights. Patient consent was never sought:  nearly every women left hospital not knowing that her pelvis had been broken.

Another deceased survivor, Teresa, was admitted to a hospital owned by the Medical Missionaries of Mary in 1960. A young healthy woman having her first baby, she was a private patient. She spoke to SoS not long before she died: she was very angry that she had paid to have an operation that ruined her life. The operation 'broke' her back, she said. This was another gratuituous operation, like 200 known others. 

Symphysiotomy ruined lives.  Around 200 women survive today, many  of them permanently disabled, incontinent and in pain.

The Irish Parliament is due to vote on SoS's Bill setting aside the Statute of Limitations on Thursday 17 April. Please support us in our bid for justice by spreading the word, and, if you haven't already done so, sign our petition at:

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Posted: Apr 1, 2013 9:04am


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Wally K.
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Dublin, Ireland
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