Families affected by organ incineration scandal call for Human Tissue Bill publication

Families affected by organ incineration scandal call for Human Tissue Bill publication

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly said the Human Tissue Bill is a priority for the Government. Picture: Brian Lawless

The mum of a baby whose organs were incinerated without her knowledge is calling on the Government to publish the Human Tissue Bill as quickly as possible, to prevent other families going through the pain she is enduring.

Katie Quilligan’s baby, James, died two days after he was born prematurely at Cork University Maternity Hospital in January 2020. 

Katie is currently awaiting a report from the hospital following a review of how his organs, and those of 17 other babies, were sent to Belgium for incineration without the consent or knowledge of their parents.

Katie and the other families want the Human Tissue Bill to be published quickly, to prevent such an occurrence again. 

The organs were sent for incineration in late March and early April 2020, to free up space at the hospital morgue because of the possibility of increased deaths because of Covid-19.

Katie said the ongoing delay in publishing the Human Tissue Bill “is affecting our mental health.” 

 For all we know, it could be still happening as we are talking.

On July 13, Taoiseach Micheál Martin told the Dáil that he wanted the bill to be published as soon as possible. He said he had met with Minister Donnelly and the Attorney General, Paul Gallagher, adding: 

I made it clear I want that legislation published in September. There are complexities applying to this legislation, but the general scheme was published a number of years ago. It has been ongoing now for a long time.

The Department of Health says the legislation is currently at an advanced stage and will be published “as soon as possible”. The department cannot give a timeframe for the publication, however. The bill was due to have been published at the end of December.

The Government Chief Whip, Jack Chambers, included the legislation on a list of priority bills due to come before the Dáil in this current session.

Labour's health spokesman, Duncan Smith, said he has been assured by the Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly, that the bill will come before the Dail before Christmas.

He added: “I hope this is the case, as delays to this point are intolerable for such an important piece of legislation. 

The Minister must ensure this is debated within this term and that adequate time is given to a thorough and sensitive debate.

After the incineration of the organs was revealed on  Primetime on RTÉ1 over a year ago, Mr Donnelly said the Human Tissue Bill was a priority for the Government. He told the Dáil:

 “The proposed Human Tissue (transplantation, post-mortem, anatomical examination and public display) Bill will create a modern legislative framework for consent for activities involving human organs and tissue. It will implement the key recommendation of the Madden report, that no hospital post mortem examination should be carried out and no tissue retained for any purpose whatsoever without the informed consent of the family or next of kin.” 

“The proposed Bill will ensure that the principles of protection of the bodily integrity of the individual before and after death, and respect for the autonomy of the individual and the rights of the bereaved, are enshrined in legislation.”

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