Tag Archives: Marie O’Connor

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Marie O’Connor, of Survivors of Symphysiotomy

Marie O’Connor, chairperson of the group Survivors of Symphysiotomy, spoke with Chris O’Donoghue on Newstalk Breakfast this morning about the group’s grievances in relation to the symphysiotomy redress scheme.

Her interview came ahead of the matter being raised in the Dáil later today.

Marie O’Connor: “The scheme is demanding objective evidence of women’s injuries. Apparently they find it difficult to believe women on this subject or believe their families. So in looking for objective evidence, they’re demanding receipts for, for example, incontinence pads or prescriptions for anti-depressants going back 50 and 60 years. Now this is an impossible bar for women to meet and this is reflected in the payouts to date because it’s clear now, from the latest figures, again we see the very same patterns that 60 per cent of women are being denied payment for significant difficulties.”

Chris O’Donoghue: “Sixty per cent denied.”

O’Connor: “Sixty per cent of the payments made to date are for €50,000 which means that none of those women got a payment for significant disability and, in our experience, over 95 per cent of women suffered lifelong disability as a result of this operation of symphysiotomy.”

O’Donoghue: “So what are the women being told, ‘you’re in pain because you’re older anyway, that would, that would have happened anyway’. Is it that flippant?”

O’Connor: “It’s not flippant but it’s really saying, ‘prove it, prove it, prove it’ if you’re claiming €50,000 for disability, that seems to be the attitude and the scheme is demanding a standard of proof that would not be demanded by any High Court and, indeed, refusing to accept reports from independent medical consultants on these injuries because of course, the view is that no reliance can be placed on what these women actually say about these injuries and these doctors are speaking to the women themselves, their reports are being excluded.”

O’Donoghue: “So just so I’m straight on that Marie, that would be contemporaneous doctors, reports from doctors now who are treating the women?”

O’Connor: “Reports for doctors now, yes. Because the trouble with, if you go back 50 years, and you demand, for example, records from GPs, well those GPs are deceased, the records didn’t pass on and there are no records but the scheme is refusing to recognise these realities and is demanding, what they call, objective evidence of injury.


O’Connor: “I think the fact is this was supposed to be a non-confrontational for claimants and it’s turned out to be quite the opposite. The scheme has conducted itself in a highly adversarial manner and is, in fact, demanding, for example, proof of prior surgery. They’re looking for pathological gaps in the pelvis. Now, in reality what the scheme doesn’t seem to know is that very many women, in very many cases, pelvis fused. So there is no gap to be seen and again, I mean, this is being taken as evidence of injury and yet evidence accepted by the High Court in a recent case, showed that there was no correlation whatsoever between a gap in the pelvis and pelvic pain for example, because the pelvis did fuse.

It bears no relationship to what women are continuing to suffer to this day. So, again, I mean, it’s just an example of where the scheme is actually wrong. And we feel its advisors, and the suitability of those advisors, to be advising the scheme is actually open to question. So for example a radiologist, who specialises in cancer treatment and cardiac imaging. So we would have expected the sub-speciality to be the bone/pelvis obviously in these cases. That is not the case.”

Listen back in full here

Symphysiotomy survivors criticise redress scheme ‘seeking prescriptions dating back 60 years’ (Newstalk)

Mark Stedman/Rollingnews.ie

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Marie O’Connor from Survivors of Symphysiotomy

“I raise a very serious breach of human rights not on the list of issues.

Ireland’s continuing refusal to admit that the practice of symphysiotomy from the 1940s to the 1980s was a human rights abuse has brought us here. Ireland was the only country in the world to do these childbirth operations in preference to Caesarean section. Religious ideology and medical ambition drove the surgery.

An estimated 1,500 women and girls, some as young as 14, had their pelvises broken, gratuitously, by doctors who believed in childbearing without limitation. Life long disability, chronic pain, mental suffering and family breakdown followed.

Patient consent was never sought: women were operated upon wide awake and often screaming: those who resisted were physically restrained. This was torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.

The State has failed to provide an effective remedy. There has been no independent inquiry, only two whitewash reports published 13 days before this hearing. The revival of symphysiotomy was a mass medical experiment that sharpened the need for patient consent, yet the government’s Walsh report justifies the involuntary performance of these operations.

There has been no restitution, only an ex gratis scheme – set out in the Murphy report – that our members have unanimously rejected. The scheme is based on the official lie that these operations were medically acceptable: it forces women to waive their legal and constitutional rights before they know the outcome of this State process. There is to be no independent board, women will have no right to independent doctors, nor will their lawyers have a right of audience.

The State claims it was not liable but these operations were carried out by State employees, and done in private hospitals providing services on behalf of the State, under its supervision.

We ask you to urge the State to finally vindicate the rights of these women under the Covenant.”

Marie O’Connor speaking at the United Nations Office of The High Commissioner for Human Rights in the last hour.  In total, 16 civil society organisations from Ireland will give brief speeches to the UN Human Rights Committee today.

The committee monitors states’ compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Ireland signed in October 1973 and ratified in December 1989.

Later today Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald and her team of officials will go before the committee for three hours, followed up by another three hour session tomorrow morning.

Survivors of Symphysiotomy (Facebook)

Ireland faces questioning before UN Human Rights Committee (Kitty Holland, Irish Times)

Sam Boal/Photocall Ireland