HomeCompany NewsThe Organ Retention Scandal and HSE Internal Audit 2022

The Organ Retention Scandal and HSE Internal Audit 2022

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In the late 90’s, it came to light that the organs of thousands of children in Ireland were sold to pharmaceutical companies without their family’s knowledge or consent.

The Dunne Inquiry

The scandal led to the then Minister for Health, Micheál Martin, setting up the Dunne Inquiry to investigate the incidents . Four years later, Mary Harney took over as Minister for Health and closed down the Dunne Inquiry. Minister Harney then appointed Dr Deirdre Madden to produce a report based on the contents of the Dunne Inquiry, which restricted her to making recommendations only.

In 2012, a set of standards and guidelines concerning retention, cremation, burial or return of organs to families was put in place. All Health Service Executive (HSE) funded hospitals are required to adhere to the guidelines.

HSE internal audit revelations 2022

An internal HSE audit which examined a 10% sample of all post-mortem files between January 2018 and October 2021 revealed the following: –

  • A consent policy to cover all aspects of the post-mortem process was not in place in almost one in every three of the hospitals audited.
  • The organs of 18 babies delivered at Cork University Maternity Hospital had been sent abroad in 2020 for incineration along with clinical waste, without the knowledge or consent of bereaved parents.
  • Organs from two perinatal post-mortems were incinerated since 2019 in University Hospital Limerick.
  • Until 2020, it was policy in Our Lady of Lourdes in Drogheda to send retained organs for incineration.
  • In the Children’s Hospital in Crumlin, they found organs from 24 post-mortems that had been retained for longer than a year – one of those cases dated as far back as 2000.
  • At the Midlands Regional Hospital Tullamore, eight organs were retained with one dating back 12 years.
  • St Columcille’s retained ten organs for over a year, and 16 organs from six perinatal post-mortems were retained for between 18 and 32 months.
  • At St Vincent’s Hospital, another ten organs were retained.
  • Smaller numbers of organs were retained for inappropriate lengths of time at University Hospital Waterford and the Midlands Regional Hospital Portlaoise.
  • At Galway University Hospital, the organs from 28 babies were held between 12 and 32 months.
  • At Portiuncula Hospital in Galway, organs from two babies were kept between 18 and 26 months.
  • Midland Regional Hospital Tullamore, held organs from six other babies for periods between 19 and 55 months.
  • At University Hospital Limerick, organs from five perinatal post-mortems were retained for between 24 and 48 months.
  • In Dublin’s Coombe Hospital there was no organ retention register in place at all when the audit was carried out.
  • At Our Lady’s Hospital in Navan, bodies being transferred from the hospital to the mortuary are taken 300m across the hospital carpark on trolleys not designed for outdoor transportation.
  • The relationship between the HSE and the coroner service is not defined and documented.

The audit found that the delays detailed above were linked to a shortage of perinatal pathology consultants. The audit detailed that due to shortages, retired specialists have been re-employed. One such consultant, known as Consultant A is over 70. The report recommends that Consultant A’s reports be finalised as soon as possible to allow for the disposal of any remaining retained organs in a sensitive manner. The audit goes on to recommend that the services provided by Consultant A should be reviewed.

The audit examined all HSE owned or funded hospitals and found significant failures in standards of care in several establishments. All of the Audit’s findings are in contravention with the HSE guidelines introduced in 2012.

The auditors have recommended a wider review take place.

Source: RTE News