Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 16 September 2014

Woman condemns 'barbaric' procedure

Mairin O'Moore (centre) of the Survivors of Symphysiotomy group presents the petition to Gillian Van Turnout and Caoimhghin O Caolain from the all-party support group at Leinster House, Dublin

An elderly woman who was the victim of a brutal medical procedure more than 60 years ago has said she was treated worse than an animal.

Mairin O'Moore is one of more than 22,000 women to sign a petition given to a cross-party Oireachtas group to demand justice for victims, which saw her pelvis deliberately cracked open as she gave birth to her first child.

Doctors performed the barbaric surgery of symphysiotomy without her knowledge, leaving her with permanent damage - both physical and emotional.

Ms O'Moore said: "It was a nightmare, you couldn't explain it. An actual saw was used on the pelvis. I won't go any further than that."

Ms O'Moore, from Dublin, presented the petition to symphysiotomy support group spokesman Sinn Fein's Caoimhghin O Caolain. He vowed to pass it on to Health Minister Dr James Reilly in the coming weeks in a bid to secure redress.

Mr O Caolain said it was time the state answers for the medieval treatment women received under its care. He said: "It's very, very important now that every effort is employed to give these women closure. The victims of symphysiotomy deserve no less."

The "barbaric" treatment, in which doctors broke the pelvis to ease childbirth, was forced on women as recently as the 1990s. Campaigners have claimed the doctors did it to fight the crime of birth control - by depriving women of a Caesarean section, which was regarded as an artificial form of contraception.

Ms O'Moore, who was born in Co Laois, said the permanent damage caused by the procedure had affected her ability to work throughout the years. She added that while it was carried out 63 years ago, nearly to the day, the memory is still fresh in her mind like a "nightmare".

She added: "The only way to describe it is barbaric. An animal would not have the same thing done to it."

Ms O'Moore was joined by Marie O'Connor, spokeswoman for the National Membership Organisation for Survivors of Symphysiotomy. She said the victims were given no information prior to or after the surgery, and there was no informed consent. Women were left with permanent ailments, including incontinence, chronic pain, prolapsed organs and neurological and psychological problems.

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