Truth or dare: women, politics, and the symphysiotomy scandal

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In 2016, a Redress Scheme was launched in Ireland to compensate women who had undergone the procedure of symphysiotomy in childbirth in the decades between 1940 and 1990. The scheme was the culmination of an exhaustive process that had seen two failed attempts at an independent report, the fracture of the main patient representative group, constant lobbying of Dail Eireann, and a widespread media campaign that crafted a David-and-Goliath narrative for public consumption. Inevitably, the reality was somewhat different. Throughout the process, emphasis was placed upon the importance of women's voices and the primary testimony of those who had undergone the procedure. Yet, for one of the survivor groups, only certain kinds of voices were permitted, those who adapted their histories to the narrative that refused complexity or subtlety. This essay examines the manner in which a variety of women's voices were crafted, amplified, and silenced in the service of a specific agenda. It also interrogates the role of the media in driving that narrative and raises the vexed question of how voices are heard, or silenced, in the age of social media.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationGeoHumanities and Health
EditorsSarah Atkinson, Rachel Hunt
Number of pages16
ISBN (Electronic)9783030214067
ISBN (Print)9783030214050
Publication statusPublished - 2020

Publication series

NameGlobal Perspectives on Health Geography


  • Symphysiotomy
  • Ireland
  • Obstetrics
  • Medical Practice


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