Many women underwent a surgical procedure called a Symphysiotomy in Ireland between the mid-1940s and the mid-1980s, without their consent or knowledge.

A Symphysiotomy involved cutting the cartilage joining the two parts of the pelvis. It had largely been abandoned in the 20th century owing to its perceived dangers; Caesarean Section was preferred. The after effects of symphysiotomy included bladder injuries and impaired locomotion. By the 1940s, surgical advances and the advent of antibiotics had made lower-section CS the operation of choice in the developed world for cases of disproportion and obstructed birth.

The use of the procedure varied considerably across the country, with the majority of cases in Dublin, Drogheda and Cork. However, the report confirms that there are records that symphysiotomies in Ireland also occurred at Waterford Regional Hospital, Portiuncula Hospital, Ballinasloe and the Mid-Western Regional Maternity Hospital, Limerick.

In 1944 the National Maternity Hospital (NMH) in Dublin pioneered the use of the symphysiotomy operation as the procedure of choice in certain cases where the woman’s pelvis was deemed too small to permit a normal birth (termed ‘disproportion’). The NMH was Ireland’s leading Catholic-identified maternity hospital.  NMH doctors were motivated by the perceived need to avoid the practice, common among non-Catholic doctors in Britain and elsewhere, of recommending sterilisation to women after a third Caesarean section (CS).  The resurrection of symphysiotomy was controversial; one British obstetrician, Chassar Moir, speaking at a Royal Academy of Medicine in Ireland meeting in 1951, called it ‘the murder of infants’. Despite evidence of a high infant mortality rate and other problems, the NMH experiment lasted until 1966. Dublin’s Coombe Hospital also adopted the procedure from 1950 onwards. The Rotunda did not adopt NMH practice, although the Draft report on symphysiotomy notes that, although ‘rarely used,’ symphysiotomy was employed there occasionally, mainly as a post-CS procedure.

Symphysiotomy was carried out at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda up to 1984, years after it had ceased being performed in other hospitals.


      • Extreme pain
      • Impaired mobility
      • Incontinence
      • Depression
      • Ongoing back pain
      • Inability to go through a further pregnancy


We are happy to meet with you to explore the legal options available to you.  Please contact Kathrin Coleman by email on FREEPHONE 1800 844 104 to discuss your case further.


The Irish Government announced on 1st July 2014 that it has agreed a redress scheme for women who underwent symphysiotomy in Ireland, the surgical procedure to break the pelvis during childbirth to allow a baby to be born.

      • The fund for the compensation scheme is €34m and three levels of compensation will be available.
      • Depending on the severity of the injury, women will receive €50,000, €100,000 or €150,000.
      • Compensation will be paid on an ex-gratia basis without admission of liability on the part of the State.
      • It is estimated that around 350 women will be eligible.

Approximately 150 Irish women have already taken cases in the High Court in relation to unsanctioned symphysiotomies in Ireland they received prior to the Redress Scheme terms being agreed.


*In contentious business, a solicitor may not calculate fees or other charges as a percentage or proportion of any award or settlement. This statement is made in compliance with RE.8 of SI 518 of 2002

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