Organ probe to continue

HEALTH Minister Micheál Martin is refusing to bow to pressure to scrap the non-statutory inquiry into the organ retention scandal.

Despite persistent pressure from families, Mr Martin said it was still his personal view that the inquiry should continue to do its work unless the need to put it on a statutory footing arose.

“The course of action being pursued is still valid,” he insisted.

Mr Martin was responding to the decision by members of Parents for Justice to sue the State for damages.

Writs have been issued by 50 families whose deceased children’s organs were retained by hospitals without their consent or knowledge.

The group, who want the present inquiry scrapped and replaced with one with statutory powers, has warned that several hundred more cases will follow within weeks.

“It is a matter for individuals to pursue individual cases through the courts but people should continue to co-operate with the non-statutory inquiry and I would appeal to them to do that because it is in everyone's best interests,” Mr Martin said yesterday.

He agreed that the situation must be truly upsetting for those involved.

“We have always been responsive to the situation. I am not happy with the adversarial approach being taken to the issue - that it must be statutory or nothing. I don't agree with it,” he said.

When he met Parents for Justice representatives three years ago compensation was not an issue on the agenda.

The key issues identified then was finding out what happened, how it happened and making sure it never happened again.

Inquiry chairperson Anne Dunne has assured Mr Martin that her report on paediatric hospitals would be completed by year end. After that the inquiry would focus its attention on maternity hospitals and on the general hospital network.

Mr Martin believed that the inquiry still had credibility, despite the fact that PFJ had withdrawn all co-operation from the inquiry four months ago.

Because of a confidentiality clause it is not known how many parents are still co-operating with the inquiry.

PFJ, who represent 800 families, estimate that around half of the 402 submissions received by the inquiry were from their members.

“It will have credibility. A lot of people are still working with the inquiry team. Also, a huge amount of work has already been undertaken. Reverting now to a statutory format would mean starting all over again in terms of the submission and compilation of documents,” Mr Martin added.

PFJ spokesperson Fionnuala O’Reilly described the minister’s comments as extremely disingenuous.

“Undoubtedly his motivation in preserving this private and toothless inquiry will become apparent in court proceedings,” she said.

Meanwhile, discussions are still continuing between Department of Health officials and representatives of the Irish Haemophilia Society on how the State can best investigate the role of US drug firms in the infection of hundreds of Irish haemophiliacs.

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