Hospital regret at hurt due to keeping organs


The medical staff at Our Lady's Hospital for Sick Children at Crumlin in Dublin yesterday apologised for retaining children's organs after post-mortems.

In a statement signed by Dr Hugh Monaghan, chairman of the hospital's medical board, staff also said they "would welcome and fully co-operate with any professional inquiry".

The full statement read: "In the light of recent publicity regarding post-mortem procedures at Our Lady's Hospital for Sick Children, the medical staff wish to make the following statement.

"We very much regret the hurt and pain caused to families by the disclosure that certain organs have been retained at the time of an autopsy. The retention of samples during post-mortem is an integral and essential part of establishing the cause of death.

"The additional information thus obtained has not only provided important information for parents but also has contributed significantly to major advances that have taken place in the care and treatment of infants and children with similar diseases.

"Unfortunately, it is not possible to complete a comprehensive examination within the time frame of the funeral service, therefore organ retention is required. The post-mortem procedures at Our Lady's Hospital have always been the same as those carried out in all leading hospitals in this country and throughout the western world. The medical staff would welcome and fully co-operate with any professional inquiry.

"Recognising the need to improve our communications with parents regarding the procedural practices involved in a post-mortem, Our Lady's Hospital for Sick Children introduced in July 1999 a consent form which specifically addresses the question of organ retention. This is likely to become accepted practice in all other hospitals."

The Minister of State for Health, Dr Tom Moffat, last month confirmed that organs belonging to 98 children were being kept at the hospital. The hospital said this was necessary in certain post-mortem examinations and that it was the practice of pathologists in all hospitals. It did not imply the retention of organs for research, the hospital said.

UCC medical law lecturer Ms Deirdre Madden said pathologists were within the law in taking tissue or organs to establish the cause of death, but would be open to prosecution if they used samples for research or training without permission.

However, Ms Fionnuala O'Reilly, of the group Parents for Justice - A Voice for the Children Who Cannot Speak, said the hospital had ignored concerns raised by parents of children whose organs had been removed.