Press Release

Inquiry into Post Mortem Practice and Organ Retention

The Government has agreed the terms of reference for Dr Deirdre Madden BL for the completion of her Inquiry into Post Mortem Practice and Organ Retention.

On 3 May last Dr Deirdre Madden, BL, a distinguished expert on medical law and ethics, was appointed by Government to provide the Tánaiste with a report on post mortem policy and practice by 21 December, 2005. The Tánaiste said “I hope that Dr Madden’s analysis of the material available and her contact with relevant agencies will result in a comprehensive report that will help to put closure on the matter for many families and next of kin affected by post mortem practice and organ retention”.

Dr Madden has met a number of groups to date including Heart Children Ireland, Parents for Justice, The Irish Stillbirth and Neonatal Death Association and the Faculty of Pathology. She has also spoken to key persons in Northern Ireland and the UK who were involved in similar Inquiries. Dr Madden is optimistic that Parents for Justice will continue to communicate and work with her, as the outcome of her investigation should help to bring closure to years of questioning for them about their loved ones.

Dr Madden’s Terms of Reference are as follows:

Terms of Reference of Post Mortem Inquiry

  • To inquire into policies and practices relating to the removal, retention and disposal of organs from children who have undergone post mortem examination in the State since 1970;
  • To inquire into allegations that pituitary glands were removed from children undergoing post mortem examination for sale to pharmaceutical companies within and outside the State;
  • To examine professional practice in relation to the information given to children’s parents in respect of the removal, retention and disposal of tissue and organs and the appropriateness of practices of obtaining consent;
  • To review the manner in which hospitals responded to concerns raised by bereaved families relating to post mortem practices carried out on children;
  • To make recommendations for any legislative and/or policy change as deemed appropriate

Note: Organs removed with consent for transplantation purposes are excluded from the inquiry.

For the purposes of this Report:

‘Organ’ is to be interpreted as a part of the body composed of more than one tissue that forms a structural unit responsible for a particular function(s), for example, the brain, heart, lungs and liver.

‘Post mortem’ refers to any post-mortem examination of a body after death, including those directed by the coroner.

‘Child’ or ‘children’ refers to those born alive and less than twelve years of age at the date of death.

The Tánaiste welcomed receipt of Dr Madden’s Terms of Reference. While she acknowledged that the timeframe for the work made it necessary to confine these to dealing with children the Tánaiste said “I am confident Dr Madden’s Report will be a thorough examination of the relevant issues”.