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Report on symphysiotomy slammed
[Posted: Sat 16/06/2012 www.irishhealth.com]
The group representing women who had the controversial symphysiotomy procedure have dismissed a review report on the issue as 'an elaborate apologia for an abomination.'
Side effects from the procedure, used to enlarge the pelvis in difficult births, included chronic pain and incontinence. Around 1,500 women are believed to have had the procedure, which was performed in some hospitals in Ireland from the 1940s until the mid-1980s.
The Survivors of Symphysiotomy (SOS) group, in a statement, claimed the report was the result of a flawed process that lacked accountability and was under the guidance of the Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.
"The report's terms of reference were largely drawn up in 2010 by the private medical body (the Institute) representing the doctors who carried out these destructive operations," SOS said.
The report said the controversial operation was partly used to obey laws influenced by the Catholic Church that banned contraception and sterilisation. It said symphysiotomies were considered appropriate in some difficult births during the 1940s and 1950s. It said this was because of safety concerns about repeated Caesarean sections and the ban on contraception and sterilisation.
However, the review admitted that some symphysiotomies were wrongly used.
SOS said the review was also flawed because it overwhelmingly relied on medical literature to support its case.
"These operations were not carried out for medical reasons - they reflected the strength of a patriarchal structure warped by clericalism and misogyny."
The SOS group has rejected the contention of both the review and the Institute that symphysiotomoies were carried out on many hospitals in the 40s and 50s because the alternative, Caesarean section, was regarded as unsafe at the time.
It also rejects the contention that the procedure was a clinical response to legal limits on contraception and sterilisation at the time. "No ethos and no laws forced doctors to unhinge women's pelvises in childbirth", it said.
SOS contends that at its peak, symphysiotomy was used by conservative Catholic doctors to ensure that women could continue to have large families, fearing that caesareans or reliance on contraception would limit family size.
It says that as women could have no more than around four caesareans, doctors effectively saw this potential alternative to symphysiotomy as birth control - a way of capping family size.
The use of symphysiotomy declined in most hospitals in the 1960s, but continued to be used at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda until the mid-1980s.
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