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 Header Item Obesity Levels (Continued)
 Header Item Symphysiotomy Report

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 787 No. 4

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Patrick O'Donovan: Information on Patrick O'Donovan Zoom on Patrick O'Donovan] Will the Minister consider, as part of the interdisciplinary, inter-departmental approach, appointing an obesity czar? The person could be a figurehead in holding the Government to account but, more importantly, also bringing members of the public, especially younger people, with him or her. Members are not viewed in the best light on many issues, particularly those that affect society. It is a good idea to put a person in situ, who is respectable to legislators, children and people involved in the matter. The White House and the Obama Administration has done something similar in the United States and there have been tangible results.

Deputy Mick Wallace: Information on Mick Wallace Zoom on Mick Wallace Deputy Luke 'Ming' Flanagan should eat his spuds in their jackets rather than putting them in the deep fat fryer. With regard to the Minister's bun, I have a coffee shop and would rather people did not touch them if they are not going to eat them. Obesity is costing over €1 billion but the last round of sports grants to sports bodies was oversubscribed by ten times. Some €26 million was available at the time. Perhaps the Minister can have a word with the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport to say that it would be a great investment if the State was to spend more on sport in order to fight obesity. None of the members of the Wexford Youths under-18 and under-19 teams are obese.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Michael Kitt Zoom on Michael Kitt We have ranged far and wide in this question. I must ask the Minister to be brief.

Deputy James Reilly: Information on Dr. James Reilly Zoom on Dr. James Reilly That is because the issue ranges far and wide. I will examine the idea proposed by Deputy Patrick O'Donovan. Having a focussed individual such as that has merit. I have made this point about public health to county council health forums. We have a responsibility in the House on the issue. Politically, it is more sexy to open a new wing of a hospital or an MRI scanner than to promote a public health initiative. We have been very poor in supporting these things as politicians. We pay lip-service rather than paying for them. Every euro spent on prevention can save between €12 and €20 on treatment. That is well proven.

I agree with Deputy Luke 'Ming' Flanagan that there is a great amount of money to be saved in prevention. There is a major educational job to be undertaken and there are many vested interests. I would like to see vending machines in schools selling only fruit, apples and water rather than the chocolate and crisps they currently sell. We must make the right thing to do the easy thing to do. If one is hungry and all one can avail of is a vending machine that sells this sort of stuff, that is what one will do. The issue will occupy minds for a considerable time to come. I am open to initiatives people have and I ask them to submit them to the special action group on obesity. I look forward to the contributions of Deputies.

The Minister of State, Deputy Alex White, is particularly interested in alcohol and is progressing a policy on it. I would like to see not only the unit of alcohol on the side of the container but also the calories.

Symphysiotomy Report

 7. Deputy Mick Wallace Information on Mick Wallace Zoom on Mick Wallace asked the Minister for Health Information on Dr. James Reilly Zoom on Dr. James Reilly when he expects to receive the Walsh Report in relation to the practice of symphysiotomy here; the reasons for the delay in its publication; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [57054/12]

 12. Deputy Brian Stanley Information on Brian Stanley Zoom on Brian Stanley asked the Minister for Health Information on Dr. James Reilly Zoom on Dr. James Reilly the reasons for the delay in the completion of the final Walsh report into the practice of symphysiotomy and related procedures at a number of hospitals; when he expects the report to be presented; his plans for its publication; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [57026/12]

Deputy James Reilly: Information on Dr. James Reilly Zoom on Dr. James Reilly I propose to take Questions Nos. 7 and 12 together. Professor Oonagh Walsh, an independent researcher, was commissioned by the chief medical officer in my Department to draft a report on the practice of symphysiotomy in Ireland. The report was conducted in two stages. The first stage is an independent academic research report, which is based on an analysis of published medical reports and research. The draft report contains information about how frequently symphysiotomy was carried out in Ireland and compares rates with other countries. The researcher experienced unforeseen difficulties in accessing information sources and, as a result, submitted the first stage of the report behind schedule in late January 2012. The researcher informed my Department that this was due primarily to the challenges with accessing historical data from a time when records on the procedure were not routinely kept.

The second stage in the research process involved a consultation process on the draft report involving patient groups, health professionals and, in particular, the women who have undergone symphysiotomy. The researcher is currently finalising the report based on the consultation and it is also planned to have a peer review process. It is hoped the report will be published early in 2013.

Deputy Mick Wallace: Information on Mick Wallace Zoom on Mick Wallace Is the Minister aware of a number of inaccuracies and misleading findings in the draft report? For example, there is a suggestion that symphysiotomy was used only in emergencies, which is untrue. There is also a suggestion that symphysiotomy was safer than Caesarian section in the 1940s and 1950s, which is also wrong, and that doctors are not and were not legally required to obtain the patient's consent to medical treatment. Like other statements in the report, it is nonsense. Does the Minister know the vast majority of survivors of symphysiotomy refuse to co-operate with the so-called consultation process run by the Department of Health on the Walsh report? Like the Finucane family in response to the de Silva report, they see it as a whitewash. Will the Minister not do the decent thing by jettisoning the discredited report on yet another sorry chapter of institutional abuse in Ireland and set up a commission of inquiry so that survivors in their 70s and 80s can finally access the truth and justice?

Deputy James Reilly: Information on Dr. James Reilly Zoom on Dr. James Reilly The Deputy has made some statements. The idea that content is not necessary for procedure is nonsense. Whether we are comparing the practices of today and the practices of 50 and 60 years ago is an issue and a difficulty. Through the report, we seek to find justice and closure for the people who suffered at the hands of doctors who performed these utterly unnecessary procedures. The idea of symphysiotomy performed on the way out, when the child has already been delivered, is outrageous. I would like to allow the report to be finalised and consultation to take place so that we can come back with a solution that can bring closure on the issue for the women who have suffered as a consequence.

Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin The Minister indicated some time early in the new year. On receipt of the report, I presume the Minister will publish it so that we have the opportunity to examine its content. Whatever the final Walsh report contains, there is an onus and responsibility on all political voices to listen to the demands of the victims of what I have always seen as a barbarous procedure, a view the Minister has disputed. I refer also to the victims of the related procedure pubiotomy. We must listen to their appeals across a number of different processes of resolution. The choice should be given to the women. It is an ever-reducing number. Since the last time we addressed the issue in the Chamber, I know of a small number of victims who have passed on from this life. That will continue to be the case. This is the last opportunity to engage the Minister before the end of the year and I ask him to commit to providing a choice. There will be those who are happy to accept some form of redress but many others want the opportunity of a court process as they feel only that process will enable them to fully vindicate their right to the truth and justice. In order to facilitate a significant number of them, the suspension of the Statute of Limitations, in particular for that cohort of victims, is required. I ask the Minister to reflect on that and keep an open mind on it even though I do not expect a response this afternoon. Hopefully, in early 2013, he will provide a choice for the ever reducing number of very unfortunate people.

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