During the week of the eucharistic congress in Ireland, it would seem the media have to attach another scandal to the church. This procedure - a symphysiotomie - has been used since the 16th century and no doubt saved a lot of babies and mothers at the time, however in the 1940’s Ireland reintroduced and continued to use such barbaric practices until 1980’s, ruining numerous women’s lives. It was covered quite extensively by the media in 2010 and documentaries showed the devastating effect on the women involved. The reasons for Irish hospitals re-introducing this procedure in the '40’s, are now being blamed on the catholic church, as noted in the media articles below.
*A DRAFT report commissioned by the Government into the use of a controversial childbirth operation says one of the reasons it was used was to obey laws influenced by the Catholic Church that banned contraception and sterilisation.
It is estimated up to 1,500 women underwent symphysiotomies – an operation to widen the pelvis – between the mid-1940s and mid-1980s. The procedure has since been linked with lifelong health problems such as incontinence, chronic pain and mobility problems.
A draft report to be published by the Department of Health this week will show use of symphysiotomies was at its peak in Ireland when it had declined in the rest of Europe.*
Symphysiotomy is a surgical procedure in which the cartilage of the pubic symphysis is divided to widen the pelvis allowing childbirth when there is a mechanical problem. It is also known as pelviotomy, synchondrotomy,, pubiotomy,, and Gigli’s operation after Leonardo Gigli, who invented a saw commonly used in Europe to accomplish the operation.
*Sinn Féin spokesperson on health Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin today called for a full inquiry into symphysiotomy, a practice he described as “a clinical scandal on a par with the clerical scandals we have seen exposed in the past two decades”.
Symphysiotomy is a procedure which involves breaking a woman’s pelvis, resulting in its being permanently widened by up to 3.5 cms. It was used in Ireland between the 1940s and 1990s “as an alternative to caesarean section in cases of obstructed labour”. Symphysiotomies were carried out on about 1,500 women in Ireland between 1944 and 1992. The Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists say the procedure may give rise to walking difficulties, pelvic joint pain and urinary incontinence in those who undergo it.
*Speaking in the Dáil today, Ó Caoláin said: "Symphysiotomy was the imposition by clinicians in Irish hospitals of a certain Catholic ideology that saw the role of women solely as the bearers of Catholic children, a role to which their bodies and their rights were to be wholly subsumed.