Return of vaccine trial documents amounted to ‘further abuse’

TD criticises Government order to give records to pharmaceutical firms, religious and State bodies

Independent TD Denis Naughten has said the return of documents about clinical trials carried out on babies and children in institutions in the 1970s to the pharmaceutical companies, religious orders and State agencies involved  amounted to ‘further abuse’ of the former residents. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

Independent TD Denis Naughten has said the return of documents about clinical trials carried out on babies and children in institutions in the 1970s to the pharmaceutical companies, religious orders and State agencies involved amounted to ‘further abuse’ of the former residents. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

 

The return in 2012 of documents collated by the vaccine trial division of the Ryan Commission to relevant pharmaceutical firms, religious congregations and State agencies has been criticised as “further abuse” of children in institutional settings used “as guinea pigs”.

Independent TD Denis Naughten also pointed out that “the trials that took place in 1973 were approved by the National Drugs Advisory Board and a licence was issued to Wellcome for a two-year period, yet these trials were still ongoing in January 1976.”

The trials were suspended in 2003 following legal action.

In a written reply to Mr Naughten this week, Minister for Education Ruairi Quinn said he had approved the return of the vaccine module documents to their original sources and understood this had been done.

He also confirmed that he was preparing legislation to retain the records of the Commission itself, the Redress Board and the Residential Institutions Abuse Review Committee in the National Archives where they would be sealed for 75 years, following which access would be restricted. Consultation on this with survivor groups and other stakeholders was planned, he said.

According to the legislation which set up the Commission, all such documents were to be destroyed on completion of its work.

Mr Naughten pointed out that while legislation was being prepared “to preserve testimony given in confidence by abuse survivors of these institutions, despite earlier assurances that such information would be destroyed, we now find out that documents provided by the successors of Wellcome, the religious orders that were responsible for these homes and the State agencies that were involved in these clinical trials were returned to the original owners in 2012.”

He said “the evidence that was given by victims on condition it would be destroyed is now being retained, but evidence that could throw some light on why these children - some of whom suffered long-term damage as a result of being involved in such trials - were treated as guinea pigs was returned to the successors of those who ignored these children’s most basic constitutional right, which is the right to bodily integrity.”

“Is this not a further abuse - current abuse - of the former residents of these institutions?” he asked.

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