Email Us My Blog

Ivana Bacik, the Church and Symphysiotomy( 2)

Wednesday, 19 March, 2008
From: "Rory Connor"
Cc: "Ivana Bacik"

National Secular Society

cc Ivana Bacik

These are the two issues referred to in Sue England's letter. Feel free to pass this information on to her as she requested same.

Ms Bacik repeated her misguided (to put it mildly) allegations regarding Symphysiotomy in a letter to the Irish Times in 2005 (A). She ignored the evidence of the Irish expert - the Master of the National Maternity Hospital Dr Peter Boylan - and the international expert Dr Bjorklund from the Karolinska Institute in Sweden (B).

Ivana Bacik is a Professor of Law not Medicine and it is clear that she is not engaged in any rational process of drawing different conclusions from the evidence. She is motivated by anti-clericalism and I fail to see why THAT form of religious hatred should be regarded as morally superior to other forms - or indeed to racial hatred. (The effects seem to be very similar!).


Rory Connor
11 Lohunda Grove
Dublin 15
087 675 1169

(A) Mater Hospital and Drug Trial
Letter to Irish Times, 11 October 2005

 It is hard to believe that in 2005, a group of cancer patients could be deprived of access to important medical treatment on religious grounds. Yet this has happened in the Mater hospital.

Clinical trials for a new cancer drug are deferred because the Mater does not want women undergoing the treatment to be advised to use contraception, irrespective of the need to prevent foetal harm, and irrespective of what the women and their doctors might want.

Catholic priests have defended the rights of hospitals to assert their religious ethos - but what about the rights of seriously ill women to access treatment in publicly funded institutions without sectarian interference?

From the Church's role in killing off Noel Browne's Mother and Child Scheme in 1949, through the barbaric practice of symphysiotomies and right up to today, Catholic doctrine has had a pernicious and long-lasting effect upon the health of women in Ireland.

How much longer will this endure?

 - Yours, etc.,

IVANA BACIK, Law School, Trinity College, Dublin 2.

(B) Symphysiotomy and Caesarean Section
Letter to Irish Times, 17 June 2003

This year approximately 50,000 women around the world will die from an avoidable complication of childbirth, obstructed labour. Many of the babies will also die. Among the ways of preventing these deaths are two operations, A and B.

Both operations are equally effective in saving babies' lives. The rate of long-term complications such as backache, urinary incontinence, infertility and leg pain are also the same for both operations. However, death of the mother is six times more frequent with operation A, and the need for blood transfusion is twice as common. No cases of walking difficulty following operation operation B have been identified, despite long-term follow-up.

Operation A is Caesarean section; operation B is symphysiotomy. These are the facts, revealed in a review of the world literature on this question in the 20th century, written by Dr Bjorklund from the Karolinska Institute in Sweden.

In June of last year I sent this review to the chairwoman of the "Survivors of Symphysiotomy", Ann O'Donnell of the National Women's Council. During a conversation with her I suggested that the group might benefit from expert assistance in clarifying the origins of their particular problems. Ms O'Donnell reassured me that they already had expert advice - from a lawyer!

Women who believe they have been harmed by symphysiotomy deserve to have their cases considered sympathetically, with accurate information regarding the clinical circumstances surrounding the relevant birth. What women don't need is inaccurate information based more on prejudice than correct analysis of the evidence, for such an approach only perpetuates a feeling of grievance without allowing an opportunity for resolution.

Judging by your report in last Wednesday's paper referring to symphysiotomy as a "barbaric" procedure it would appear that someone in a position of reponsibility is seriously misleading the women by either suppressing, or ignoring, the evidence. A grave injustice is being done if this is the case.

 Yours, etc.,

PETER BOYLAN, MAO, FRCPI, FRCOG, National Maternity Hospital, Holles Street, Dublin 2