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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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Health minister Bairbre de Brun on organ retention
"It was totally unacceptable and must never happen again"
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Friday, 2 February, 2001, 21:57 GMT
NI organs inquiry 'could be' held

Mandy Moore held second funeral after her son's organs were returned
Northern Ireland's health minister has said she may hold a public inquiry into the ongoing controversy over the retention of human organs by the province's hospitals.

In a BBC interview Bairbre de Brun said she did not believe the practice was on the same scale here as it was on the Alder Hey hospital in Liverpool.

But Ms de Brun said the retention of organs by Northern Ireland hospitals was totally unacceptable and "must never happen again".

She said she is setting up a committee, which will include the parents of children whose organs were retained after their death, to consider the issue.

"The committee is intended to have a mixture of people who will be able to bring a full knowledge of what it is like to be in that situation.

Bairbre de Brun has turned down a request for an interview
Bairbre de Brun: Public inquiry has not been ruled out
"It is also to have people from health and social services councils, pathologists, clinical psychologists, who will be able to make some informed making out of the data that we have been gathering," she said.

"There were a number of steps that needed to be taken. The first was to contact the hospitals to ask them what the situation was.

"We then wrote to all of the hospitals asking specific questions. Our officials will then go out to speak to them with follow-up questions.

"On the basis of that a draft report will be issued to the committee which I am setting up will look at it.

"It's going to guide policy, it will look at giving us that we need to ensure the practices of the past will no longer re-occur."

She added nothing would be ruled out, including a public inquiry.

The department of health has sent out questionnaires to all hospitals who carry out, or who have carried out, post mortem examinations to find out many organs are still retained.

The hospital trusts were also asked about the people who had access to these organs and for what purpose.

Second funeral for baby

Ms de Brun was speaking after County Londonderry parents Mandy and Stuart Moore buried the organs of their baby son Phillip, which had been kept by Altnagelvin hospital in the city, without their knowledge.

Mandy Moore: "Questions need to be answered"
The Moores had buried their son, who died two weeks after he was born prematurely, nine years ago thinking he was intact.

On Friday, the Limavady couple held a second funeral and buried his heart and brain.

Mandy Moore said: "As far as I can see my son's organs were stolen and they are playing with people's emotions.

"There are a lot of answers to come out about this.

"Anybody with half a heart couldn't want to see a child being buried twice. It's just terrible."

Hospital investigation

Altnagelvin hospital has begun an investigation into why it retained human organs.

It has started to examine how many body parts it kept.

Last week the hospital admitted it still retained the organs of 15 children and 45 adults.

The hospital trust said it was unhappy with misleading information about organ retention, which it released to the public.

The trust has now begun its own internal inquiry to establish how that happened, why the hospital still retained organs and if the reason for retention was justified in each instance.

The hospital trust has invited the local health watchdog, the Western Health Council, to nominate a representative to the inquiry team.

The preliminary report from the inquiry is due at the start of March.

However, on Friday afternoon the hospital made another revelation, admitting that in late 1998 it had three foetuses in its mortuary which had been there for up to a year.

The hospital said that sometimes when a mother was discharged after a miscarriage she was unable to make a decision about what she wanted to happen to her unborn child.

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See also:

01 Feb 01 | Northern Ireland
Fresh calls for organ retention inquiry
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
Organ stripping law could change
25 Jan 01 | Northern Ireland
Hospital makes organs apology
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