Press Release

Publication of the Report of the Working Group on Post Mortem Practice

The Minister for Health and Children, Mary Harney T.D., today (7 November 2006) received the Report of the Working Group on Post Mortem Practice from the Chair of the Working Group, Dr. Deirdre Madden.

The Working Group was established by the Minister in May 2006 and asked to examine legal and ethical issues relating to post mortem practice in respect of babies who died before or during birth, minors over the age of 12, and adults, and to adapt the recommendations in the Madden Report into Post Mortem Practice and Procedure (2006) to these cohorts. Along with Dr. Madden, the Working Group includes representatives of Parents for Justice and the Irish Stillbirth and Neonatal Death Society, together with healthcare professionals from a range of disciplines across the Health Service Executive. The secretariat for the Group was provided by the Department of Health and Children.

The Working Group Report endorses the recommendations made in the Madden Report, in particular the need for legislation to be introduced as soon as possible to ensure that no post-mortem examination will be carried out and no tissue or organ retained from a post-mortem examination for any purpose without appropriate authorisation. Following an authorised post-mortem examination, the Report recommends that organs, where retained, must be appropriately stored according to best international practice. The need for clear, comprehensive and standard information to be given to bereaved families is also highlighted, together with the need for appropriate education and training for hospital staff who are responsible for end of life care or for liaison with the bereaved. A number of new recommendations are made in the Working Group Report which are specific to the cohorts under review, and difficult issues are addressed, in particular with regard to the deaths of babies during or before birth.

The Minister re-iterated her commitment to implement the recommendations in the Madden Report and indicated that now that the recommendations were complete her officials would prepare a memorandum for government setting out the requirements for appropriate legislation to give legal effect to these recommendations. The Minister also noted that considerable progress has already been made by the Health Service Executive in implementing the recommendations in hospitals across the country.

The Minister had a special word of thanks for the members of the representative groups for their collaboration on the Report “I am very thankful to the members of the representative organisations who have worked so diligently to produce these recommendations. I am aware of how distressing the revelations of the past few years have been to families who were already suffering from the loss of their loved ones, and I commend their efforts at ensuring that no other family should have to undergo the same ordeal” said the Minister. “I also wish to thank Dr. Madden for her endeavours in chairing the Working Group so effectively and producing the Report in such a timely manner” added the Minister.

View the Report of the Working Group on Post Mortem Practice. [PDF].