Report says post mortem legislation urgently needed

LEGISLATION must be introduced immediately to ensure that no post-mortem examination can be carried out or organs retained without appropriate authorisation, a new report insists.

The report, published yesterday by Health Minister Mary Harney, was drawn up by a working group established by the minister in May to examine the legal and ethical issues relating to post-mortem practice.

The working group was chaired by Dr Deirdre Madden, the Government-appointed legal expert who also produced a report on key issues relating to post-mortem practices and procedures at the end of last year.

The group also endorsed the recommendations made in the Madden Report, including representatives of Parents of Justice, the Irish Stillbirth and Neonatal Death Society and healthcare professionals.

In particular, the new report recommends that following an authorised post-mortem examination, organs, where retained, must be appropriately stored according to best international practice.

It emphasises the need for comprehensive and standard information to be given to bereaved families and to provide education and training for hospital staff responsible for end-of-life care and dealing with the bereaved.

The report recommends that legislation be enacted to allow a competent adult authorise a post mortem to be carried out on their body.

But it also advises that in a situation where next-of-kin strongly objects to a post mortem, the hospital should discuss the issues fully before deciding to proceed or not.

Ms Harney said now the Madden recommendations were complete, her officials would prepare a memorandum for Government setting out the requirements to give legal effect to them.

She said considerable progress had already been made by the Health Service Executive in implementing the recommendations in hospitals across the country.

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