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Dr Joe Hendron speaks to BBC Radio Ulster
"There are such massive sensitivities, the only answer is a public inquiry"
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Thursday, 1 February, 2001, 22:12 GMT
Fresh calls for organ retention inquiry
The controversy hit the headlines in the Belfast Telegraph
The controversy makes headlines in the Belfast Telegraph
Northern Ireland's health minister is facing mounting pressure to initiate a public inquiry into the organ removal controversy.

Chairman of the assembly's health committee, Dr Joe Hendron, said such an investigation was now necessary to establish the scale of the practice of retaining organs after death.

His comments came as another mother spoke out after discovering that organs had been taken from her dead daughter.

Natalie Magee's daughter, Claire, died in 1993 when she was just 16 days old.
Natalie Magee is distraught about the way the controversy has been handled
Natalie Magee lost her baby eight years ago

Two days ago, Ms Magee held a second funeral to bury her child's heart and part of her lung and bowel.

However, she has now been told by the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast that her daughter's brain was also removed during a post mortem, but cannot be traced.

"They have no record of the brain," she told the BBC.

"The doctor has a list of things which were in her store, which Claire's heart and lung and bowel were part of, but in relation to her brain they can only assume it was incinerated with other brains."

She said she was very upset and angry over the situation adding: "I feel I am entitled to know what happened to my daughter's organs.

"I'm entitled to what purpose they were removed for and why they kept some of them but incinerated others and why I wasn't informed.

"I feel very frustrated because the hospital seem to have adopted the attitude with me that it was custom and practice in those days. It was what was done in all hospitals, so it was alright to be done."

The Royal and Altnagelvin Hospital in Londonderry have admitted storing the organs of more than 400 babies without parental consent.

A second funeral has been held by the family
A second funeral has been held by the family

Belfast City Hospital said in recent years it had not retained any organs without consent.

But it said it was "possible" that in the past organs may have been retained for a period strictly for the purposes of research and education.

The province's chief medical officer, Dr Etta Campbell, is writing to the hospitals involved to establish their position on the issue.

It is understood that the health minister, Bairbre de Brun, is awaiting a subsequent report before deciding whether to have an inquiry.

But Dr Hendron said it was time for the whole truth to emerge about the issue.

"I am aware that a circular has been sent out by the department to the various hospitals. I don't believe the totally correct questions have been asked," he said.

"The people out there want to know the truth, there's great hurt and very, very great sensitivities."

On Thursday, the Eastern Health Council said nothing short of a full, independent inquiry would satisfy the families of those affected by the scandal.

It also sharply criticised the department of health's response to the situation.

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See also:

30 Jan 01 | Northern Ireland
Foetus found in hospital van
12 Jan 01 | Northern Ireland
Couple's anguish over organ removal
11 Jan 01 | Health
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25 Jan 01 | Northern Ireland
Hospital makes organs apology
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