A redress scheme established by the Irish government to compensate survivors of the surgical procedure of symphysiotomy has been criticised by leading campaigners and human rights groups, including the Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL), as inadequate and requiring women to effectively waive their human rights.
The scheme was established following criticism in 2014 by the United Nations Human Rights Committee of Ireland’s treatment of the hundreds of survivors of this out-dated and obsolete practice.
Symphysiotomy is a surgical procedure which was carried out on pregnant women, in many cases, as an alternative to cesarean section and is alleged to have been carried out on up to 1,500 women and girls in Ireland between the 1920s and the 1980s, often without obtaining a woman’s consent. The procedure involves severing one of the main pelvic joints and unhinging the pelvis to facilitate natural delivery.
This procedure and the related procedure known as pubiotomy (severing of the pubic bone) is said by campaigners to have been routinely preferred by medical professionals and hospitals governed by a Catholic ethos who were concerned with the limitations from repeated cesarean sections on a woman’s ability to bear children thought to accrue at the time.
Campaigners expressed particular concern that, to accept a once-off payment for under the scheme, a woman must agree to sign a waiver which would irrevocably "indemnify and hold harmless" any and all parties in respect of an existing or future claim for redress including in relation to doctors, medical personnel, the health services and any religious orders who ran the hospitals in question.