The organs of dead children and adults have been sent for incineration following post-mortem examinations at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospitals in Drogheda and University Hospital Limerick, a damning new HSE audit has revealed.
The audit also uncovered other widespread violations of care and dignity, as several hospitals held onto the organs of people who were the subject of autopsies for years.
The HSE audit obtained by the Irish Independent In accordance with freedom of information laws, revelations followed that the organs of deceased children of 18 bereaved parents had been sent for cremation twice in March 2020 and April 2020 by Cork University Maternity Hospital.
The parents had consented to the disposal of the organs but had clear expectations that this would involve burial or cremation.
This led to a broader review of practices by the HSE, conducted by its internal audit department.
In 2012, following the organ retention scandal that came to light in 1999 and 2000, a set of recommended standards and guidelines on the cremation, burial or return of organs to relatives was drafted.
The latest audit uncovers inappropriate disposal of organs at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda and Limerick University Hospital.
At Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda, it was hospital policy to burn organs until 2020.
Records identified three adult organs and one perinatal organ that were discarded during the 2018-2020 review period.
The same policy applied at the Limerick facility. A review of cadaver records identified two autopsies using this disposal method since 2019.
Regardless, no records were available to verify the method of disposal related to an organ at Connolly Hospital, Dublin in 2019.
The review indicates that the current policy does not specify the procedure for the final disposal of organs when the next of kin choose not to contact the hospital or when other issues arise where sensitive disposal occurs.
It’s unclear who makes the final decision, and this has led to organs being kept beyond the one-year limit set by the guidelines in numerous hospitals.
The results show:
- Organs preserved for over a year from 24 separate autopsies at Crumlin Children’s Hospital.
- Ten organs stored at St Columcille’s Hospital in south Dublin for over a year – the oldest dating from 2017.
- Ten organs stored at St Vincent’s Hospital in Dublin for over a year.
- Midland Regional Hospital Tullamore has kept eight organs for over a year – some dating back to 2010
- A small number of organs were kept at University Hospital Limerick, University Hospital Waterford and Midland Regional Hospital Portlaoise for over a year.
In connection with perinatal autopsies, the storage of organs was found in several hospitals.
At Galway University Hospital, 28 cases had perinatal organs stored for more than one year. Some have been retained for 32 months. All related to a consultant.
At Portiuncula Hospital in Ballinasloe, County Galway, two separate post mortems resulted in organs being kept for 18 to 26 months
At St Columcille’s Hospital, Louglinstown, Co Dublin, 16 organs from six perinatal autopsies were preserved for up to 32 months.
Tullamore Hospital held organs between 19 and 55 months and Limerick University Hospital held organs from five perinatal post mortems between 24 and 42 months.
The audit revealed a general shortage of perinatal pathology consultants on site visits, necessitating the hiring of retired specialists, two in particular working on an ad hoc basis.
It also found that there was no organ retention register at Coombe Hospital in Dublin.
At Our Lady’s Hospital in Navan, County Meath, bodies being transferred from the hospital to the morgue are brought across the car park. It is a 300m route and trolleys are not designed for outdoor transport.
At Portiuncula Hospital in Co. Galway details of autopsies are given orally and the hospital is in the process of producing information leaflets on adult autopsies.
St. Vincent’s Hospital generally conducts all hospital-ordered cremations in batches once a year.
However, in 2019 the volume was lower and resulted in some organs being retained beyond the one-year deadline into 2020.
The audit revealed that 32 percent of the sites visited did not have a consent policy in place that covered all aspects of the post-mortem process.
There was also a lack of coherence in transport policy.
The audit also revealed that the relationship between the HSE and the coroner service is not defined and documented.
There are differences and inconsistencies in practices, communications, and responsibilities between different districts. In some cases, coroners only issue verbal authorizations for autopsies, while others issue written consent.
https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/damning-hse-audit-reveals-more-hospitals-incinerated-organs-of-deceased-babies-and-adults-41834138.html A damning HSE audit reveals more hospitals have burned organs from babies and adults who have died