Press Release

Minister for Health and Children welcomes the Report on the Independent Audit of Retained Organs

The Minister for Health and Children, Mary Harney TD, today (Thursday, 23 July 2009) welcomed the publication of the report of the independent audit of retained organs in the State by Michaela Willis.

The Madden Report on Post-Mortem Practices and Procedures recommended that an independent audit be carried out of currently retained organs in all hospitals in the State. The independent national audit has been completed by Ms Michaela Willis, MBE, and it is being published by the HSE today (23 July 2009).

Commenting on the Report, the Minister stated “I would like to express my thanks to Michaela Willis for her work in this important area. Her report demonstrates that significant improvements have been made in post-mortem practice in Ireland in recent years. The report has validated all 36 hospitals and 5 universities involved and identified many examples of best and excellent practice. It also provides a strong base for a process of continuous improvement in post-mortem practice in Ireland.”

The report noted that some hospitals particularly stood out with regard to their good practice surrounding the process of seeking consent including The Mater Misericordiae Hospital, The Children’s University Hospital Temple Street, St. James’ Hospital, St. Vincent’s University Hospital, Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital Crumlin, and the Coombe Women’s Hospital.

The Minister continued “I am very conscious that Ms. Willis’s report identifies issues of serious concern that will cause upset to parents who have already suffered the bereavement of a child. The report confirms that the Rotunda Hospital has taken steps to address issues identified during its audit to ensure that its post-mortem policy, practice, management and monitoring conform with guidelines. The HSE will also monitor the hospital through a six-monthly audit. I have met with the Chairman and the Master of the Rotunda hospital and they have provided assurances that the hospital has taken actions to prevent this reoccurring in the future, and that the incidents will be fully investigated.”

“The HSE is also working with the hospitals that chose not to bury organs retained from some pre-2000 post-mortems. The hospitals will put arrangements in place to dispose sensitively of these organs in accordance with good practice guidance and the wishes of the parents.”

The Minister added “This report confirms my belief that a culture of patient safety and quality assurance, as well as open communication, must be at the heart of a high standard health service. The steps that I am taking in relation to the implementation of the far-reaching report of the Commission on Patient Safety and Quality Assurance and the implementation of the new “whistleblower” provisions should encourage a culture of openness, accountability, quality and a focus on the patient throughout all hospitals and the entire health services.”

The Minister also referred to work in progress by her Department in relation to new legislation.

“A public consultation on new legislative proposals to regulate the removal, retention, storage, use and disposal of human tissue from post-mortems was recently completed. Officials have met with key stakeholder groups to discuss their suggestions. I intend to bring these proposals to Government in the Autumn.”

On foot of serious issues of concern raised during the independent audit of the Rotunda Hospital, the HSE appointed Mr Ian Carter, CEO St James’s Hospital, to carry out a Lookback exercise into post-mortem practice in the Rotunda Hospital up to 2007. The Minister also expressed her thanks to Mr Ian Carter, who led the Lookback exercise and added “The Lookback report provided an in-depth analysis and a suite of recommendations for the Rotunda to implement immediately.”

Background

The Madden Report on Post-Mortem Practices and Procedures, which was commissioned by the Government, recommended that an independent audit should be carried out of currently retained organs in hospitals in the State. Ms Michaela Willis was commissioned by the HSE to carry out the independent audit. Ms Willis has held various posts, including Chief Executive of the UK National Bereavement Partnership, a member of the UK Human Tissue Authority, and the UK Retained Organs Commission.