More on symphysiotomy in Ireland.

Greer launches symphysiotomy book

A pelvic operation carried out during childbirth which left women with lifelong problems breached their constitutional rights and was unlawful, according to a new book on the subject launched this morning.

Bodily Harm: Symphysiotomy and Pubiotomy in Ireland 1944-92 by Marie O’Connor, found the operation, which involved the use of a wire saw to widen the pelvis, was generally performed without the consent of women and “amounted to battery in law”.

The book claims the procedure was “resurrected from the graveyard of obstetric surgery” by the National Maternity Hospital, that it was “experimental” and women were used as teaching aids for practitioners who would be working in overseas hospitals.

Ms O’Connor said evidence debunked the myth that the procedure was standard surgery for difficult births and that it was gradually replaced by caesarean section.

“Symphysiotomy was never a norm for difficult births, ever, in any country because it was seen by doctors as too dangerous,” Ms O’Connor said.

It was carried out because the alternative, a caesarean section was seen as limiting the number of children a woman could have, she said.

The book was launched this morning by the feminist academic Germaine Greer.

Ms Greer said while she believed there was “a place” for the procedure when performed properly and in particular circumstances, it appeared not to have been carried out correctly in Ireland.

“For some reason the childbed is a battlefield and it is a battlefield in which women take punishment and what you can’t understand is why exactly,” she said.

She said women lost control of childbirth in the 17th century to the man midwife “who came racing in even then with his swords and his forceps and with his goal-oriented thing of lets get this over quickly, lets not mess around”.

We had all seen the progressive medicalisation of pregnancy and childbirth, she said.

“We are very prone to believe that we can’t carry out the procedure, we can’t manage the process ourselves. We believe it when we are told that we need sometimes quite destructive interventions,” she said.

“Throwing your weight around, even at your most powerful as a mother-to-be is something that comes hard to women.”

She told members of the Survivors of Symphysiotomy who were present at the launch that she did not think they would get “any joy” out of any of the “medical colleges”.

“One of the things they will do is discredit all the women’s evidence,” she said.

“We will never find out why they did what they did because they don’t actually know, because they were in fact behaving irrationally under the pretext of being super rational.”

There was a lady who lived near me growing up who had this done.
She wasn’t married at the time she gave birth, she was engaged but that meant nothing and after she was a mess after the operation and could not recover her husband to be and father of her child called off the marriage, for what use would she be when she couldn’t walk with out crutches.
She spent her life on crutches and in considerable pain but brought up her daughter to be a wonderful person. Unfortunately she died in a car crash some years ago and so is one of the many who will never have justice for what was done to her.

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