Symphysiotomy survivors ask Varadkar to halt destruction of their records
Survivors of symphysiotomy are appealing to the Minister for Health Leo Varadkar to stop the planned destruction of data relating to their cases.
Update 2.30pm: A spokesperson for the Department of Health said they were not destroying original documents.
They said: "This is a data protection issue, we are not allowed to keep these records, so we will only destroy the records on the grounds of confidentiality."
Update 12.40pm: Survivors of symphysiotomy have called the Department of Health assurance that "only copy medical records" will be destroyed as "utterly misleading".
The Chairperson of Survivors of Symphysiotomy, Marie O'Connor, said hospitals "could destroy the original records next week" as they are only legally obliged to hold records for eight years.
Obstetric records are held for 25 years and general medical records for eight. Many of the records entrusted to the scheme go back half a century or more.
She said the department was being "completely disingenuous" and said the destruction of the records would be "ill thought-out and ill-judged".
Ms O'Connor said: "The State seems determined to shred the evidence of operations that it refuses to acknowledge were abusive.
"Finally, it 's actually not the case, as far as we know, that the records are currently available for collection in Dublin city. The scheme has yet to finish its work, so it's most unlikely they have left any records out for collection."
The group have set up an online petition to stop the shredding of the records.
Survivors of Symphysiotomy is appealing to every woman who submitted records to the scheme to send in the free form letter linked to this petition. They said that sending in the letter will give legal protection to their records.
Earlier: The records of 700 survivors, detailing the medical procedure they were subjected to, are currently available for collection in Dublin City - but not every woman is able to travel to collect the documents.
The Symphysiotomy Payment Scheme now intends to destroy all unclaimed records after Sunday March 20.
Administrators of the scheme had offered to send any documents back to applicants at no cost, or to destroy them if the applicants preferred.
Marie O'Connor, Chairperson of Survivors of Symphysiotomy (pictured), said the records were important for any future inquiry into symphysiotomy.
She said the records were also of historical and medical importance.
"They represent a contribution to knowledge as well as representing a dark chapter in women's history," she said.
Symphysiotomy involved the breaking of the pelvis bone, to allow natural childbirth in preference to a Caesarean section.
In a statement, the Department of Health said: "Any potential destruction of documents submitted to the Scheme, in line with Section 46 of the Terms of the Scheme, would be undertaken solely to ensure the confidentiality of Applicants.
"It is important to note that only copy medical records have ever been received by the Scheme, the originals of which remain with hospitals or possibly with a solicitor if providing assistance to an Applicant.
"In the circumstances, any applicant's mind can be put at rest that her medical records cannot be lost by any action of the Scheme."