Two hospitals admit to supplying glands

TWO more hospitals have revealed they supplied pituitary glands from deceased patients to pharmaceutical companies, bringing to 22 the number of hospitals that have admitted their involvement so far.

The country's largest acute hospital, St James' in Dublin city centre, and St Vincent's University Hospital in South Dublin, both confirmed they supported the practice of using human glands to make growth hormone for the treatment of children with growth deficiencies.

Neither hospital would say how many deceased patients' bodies were used in this way or how many they had been able to positively identify so that the information could be passed to their next of kin.

St James' Hospital said it was common practice for the hospital to carry out post-mortem examinations on behalf of seven city hospitals from 1975, around the same time the harvesting of pituitary glands began.

Those hospitals included Sir Patrick Dun's, the Royal City of Dublin Hospital on Baggot Street, Mercers Hospital and Dr Steeven's Hospital, all of which were closed and had their services transferred to the St James' campus in the mid-1980s.

The other three hospitals were the Meath, the Adelaide and the National Children's Hospital, Harcourt Street, for which St James continued to carry out post mortems until they closed and re-opened as Tallaght Hospital in 1998.

From 1980, St James was also contracted to provide post-mortem services to four other smaller specialist hospitals: St Mary's, St Ita's, St Brendan's and Clon-skeagh. All post mortems were carried out at St James by trainee pathologists under the supervision of the Department of Pathology, Trinity College.

A spokesman said yesterday the number of hospitals involved and the scattering of post-mortem records presented difficulties for St James in terms of verifying statistics and the identities of the patients involved.

The hospital had provided all records and relevant information to the Dunne Inquiry on Post Mortem Procedures and was continuing to co-operate with the investigation. St Vincent's also said it had made full disclosures to the inquiry.

Novo Nordisk, one of two pharmaceutical companies who admitted involvement, said it was supplied by 32 hospitals.

The Health Department's helpline for people with questions about the organ retention controversy received over 100 calls by lunchtime yesterday.

The department, and the Eastern Regional Health Authority which is running the helpline, were unable to say how many calls were received in the afternoon. Newspaper advertisements will appear today with details of the helpline which can be contacted on 1800 45 45 00.

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