Charlotte Yeates, one of the women who helped unearth the hospital organ-retention scandal more than 20 years ago has described as “shameful” the incineration of babies’ remains in 2020.
Charlotte was among the women behind Parents for Justice, whose campaign led to revelations in 2009 that 21,500 organs from deceased children and adults were removed and retained without consent – including being sold to drug companies.
The distress and heartbreak was reawakened yesterday after it emerged Cork University Maternity Hospital (CUMH) sent the organs of 18 babies for incineration to Belgium in March and April last year.
“This is shameful. Most of us never found out what happened to our children’s and loved ones’ organs. We thought it would never happen again,” said Ms Yeates, who first raised the alarm back in 1999.
A 2006 report recommended that legislation be brought in to legally protect the organs of the deceased in hospitals, but this is still not in place and they remain non-binding guidelines.
The HSE yesterday failed to respond to questions from the Irish Independent on whether it has been informed of breaches of guidelines around the disposal of organs in other hospitals.
Baby Lee’s organs were ‘dumped like a bit of rubbish’
A mother in Cork has said she will not give up her fight against Cork University Maternity Hospital (CUMH) in searching for answers as to why her deceased son’s brain was incinerated in Antwerp, Belgium, without her consent.
Leona Bermingham said she was “absolutely shocked” to find out that 17 other families also received the news that the organs and tissue of deceased babies had been incinerated overseas without parental consent.
“They deserved more, they deserved better communication from the hospital, so much more than finding out like this. She will not give up her fight against Cork University Maternity Hospital in searching for answers as to why her deceased son’s brain was incinerated in Antwerp, Belgium, without her consent.
Scandal came as shock to maternity hospital staff too, Professor reveals
And the ‘explanation’? It’s the pandemic!
The incidents occurred on March 25 and April 2, 2020, the South/Southwest Hospital Group confirmed.
The organs had been retained in Cork University Hospital (CUH) in storage following post-mortem examinations. HSE protocol dictates that the organs should have been returned to parents or either buried or cremated in a sensitive nature, with the consent of the parent(s).
The interment space for organs was full in early 2020, meaning some of the organs were held for months in storage following post-mortem.
A decision was then made to send the organs of 18 babies to Belgium, along with clinical waste, to be destroyed.
This was out of “absolute necessity and desperation” due to the ever-worsening Covid-19 pandemic, according to hospital correspondence seen by RTÉ Investigates.
So, when struggling for an explanation, blame the pandemic seems just so convenient!