Friday, March 10, 2006

Statements on the Lourdes Report

The Midnight Court will shortly be moving to better appointed digs and focusing on taking a less rambling shape for itself. 2,000 word posts will be out and something a little more wieldy will be in. Today, I'm linking readers to the statement of Senator Geraldine Feeney who spoke in the Seanad yesterday of the experiences of the women who had their wombs unnecessarily removed by Michael Neary. While Ms Feeney has normally appeared as mere FF Seanad fodder, her experience as a member of the three-year Medical Council inquiry lends her statement a passion, conviction and eloquence we cannot but admire. She is not afraid in this case to tell it like it is and it is visceral and heart-breaking:
The first woman I want to talk about delivered a little baby girl on 18 August 1986. One might ask how I can remember the date; I remember it because my fourth baby, a daughter, was born the very same day in the north west in Sligo General Hospital. I was ten years the woman's senior - she was 19 and I was 29. My baby was born perfectly healthy at 7 a.m. and the woman'’s little baby girl was born at 2 p.m. Her baby, who was called Eileen, had spina bifida and died six weeks later. I will never forget the mother's tears and those of her husband as they told us their stories. She is still married to her lovely husband but her life is a living hell. She has been robbed of the most vital thing any woman has, that is, the facility to procreate.
The extreme degree of Neary's malpractice is captured succinctly too:
I was told by Dr. Eamon McGuinness, an obstetrician-gynaecologist who sat on the inquiry with me, that in his 30 years of practice he had carried out one caesarean hysterectomy on a woman in her mid-30s who had five children. He worked on that woman for eight hours. He massaged and packed the uterus and did everything medically possible to try to preserve it. She received 11 or 12 units of blood and, after nine hours, the doctor called in one of his senior colleagues to help with the operation. I tell this story because Dr. Neary never called in any of his colleagues to help. He proceeded to perform a hysterectomy within minutes of delivering babies.
Neary of course never spent the night with a patient but frequently lied about the extent of his efforts in chillingly contemptuous notes:
He wrote in their charts statements such as "Lucky to survive the night"”, "“Thank God I was able to save her"”, "“Got away with this one - baby and mother alive"” and "“Uncontrollable bleeding, couldnÂ't stop it, spent all night in theatre"”. I know that none of this was factual. Dr. Neary never spent all night in the theatre and there was never any uncontrollable bleeding.
The Midnight Court agrees with Senator Feeney that whatever about Neary - and in any normal State he would never have been left to develop his particular brand of medicine - the people responsible for allowing him to continue should be dealt with most severely:
The people to whom I really point a finger are Dr. Neary’s senior colleagues, the pathologists and anaesthetists, who were not and should not have been afraid to address the matter. The anaesthetists were in the delivery rooms and operating theatres and saw there was no raised blood pressure or increased pulse rates and they knew the women would not die in 15 or 20 minutes. The pathologists who examined the uteri and sent them back to Dr. Michael Neary saying no abnormality could be found in them have many questions to answer.

The “three wise men” sent to Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital by the Irish Hospital Consultants Association - Drs. Prendiville, Stuart and Murphy - issued a report giving Dr. Neary a clean bill of health, as implied in Judge Harding Clark’s report. She adduced that they did so out of congeniality and compassion for Dr. Neary. They must have told her so. Shame on those men. If I had a stronger word or if I were permitted to use offensive language in this Chamber, I would certainly use it in respect of them. Shame on them.

If a man had a minor procedure carried out on his reproductive organ and he emerged from the operating theatre minus that organ, there would be outrage. It might happen once but would never happen 188 times. The women in question were vulnerable and were robbed of their internal reproductive organs. There is no other word but “robbed”.

We are all to blame. Tribunals of inquiry should not blind us to the fact that we continue to be happy to live in a society in which the first reaction on seeing something untoward happening is "Oh fuck. Do I not need to know this." Sean Fortune is another example of a man allowed to abuse his position of trust because the people around him, including agents of the State, were paralysed by the refusal to take responsibility.

While we like to joke as a nation about our inability to complain in restaurants, the sobering fact is that we all ignore the petty venality of our social and political structures, which refusal to take responsibility is far more insidious and, ultimately, dangerous than rampantly criminal corruption involving brown envelopes and the like. The criminal justice system can take care of things like that if they come to light, but anything covered by a spurious "code of ethics" in this country is a dead loss. A code of ethics seems essentially to be a licence to break its particulars. It is suggestive of a polity in which appearances are much more important than reality. The sanction is the humiliation of being caught, but never any genuine loss. Having read Ms Feeney's contribution, readers might also like to read Senator [Dr.] Mary Henry's remarks as a member of the medical profession which was found so wanting in this case. The irony of her remarks on the imposition of a certain "ethos" in our hospitals will not be lost in a nation which has made piety something of an art. Or maybe they will.


Anonymous EWI said...

As I stated over on Tuppenceworth on their related article, expect to see noises soon here about medical professionals refusing to undertake the accepted tasks of their role.

3/13/2006 09:06:00 AM  
Blogger Dervala said...

My God. I wish this were more surprising.

I read Nell's biography over Christmas, a good reminder of just how clubbish that generation of Establishment men were.

Shame on them, indeed.

3/14/2006 10:17:00 AM  
Anonymous copernicus said...

They're still pretty clubbish, Dervala. Portmarnock Golf Club gets a shout out here:

3/14/2006 06:40:00 PM  
Anonymous morgan said...

The medical profession remains unaccountable, in the sense that clinical privilege applies. Hopefully this report will help ensure that doctors become accountable in future.

3/19/2006 10:57:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cool blog, interesting information... Keep it UP » » »

2/05/2007 04:57:00 AM  

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