Thursday, 9 December 2004
Dáil Eireann Debate
118. Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the plans the 29 hospitals that have admitted selling pituitary glands to companies (details supplied) put in place to contact the next of kin of the 7,500 deceased persons from whom these glands were obtained without knowledge or consent. [32859/04]
119. Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if a statutory inquiry will be established as a matter of urgency into the sale of pituitary glands to pharmaceutical companies. [32860/04]
120. Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she has established the profits companies (details supplied) generated from the sale of medications produced by pituitary glands obtained from deceased persons without the consent of their next of kin. [32861/04]
122. Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the way in which the private nature of the Dunne inquiry can be justified in view of the fact that the issues under investigation are matters of public interest. [32863/04]
123. Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the way in which the estimated €16 million which has been spent on the Dunne inquiry, which has furnished no report or findings to date, can be justified. [32864/04]
124. Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason the Dunne inquiry has been allowed to continue in session for over five years without producing a report. [32865/04]
The terms of reference of the post mortem inquiry require it to review post mortem policy, practice and procedure in all hospitals in the State since 1970, with particular reference to organ removal, retention, storage and disposal. The inquiry is also mandated to examine any arrangements with pharmaceutical companies regarding retained organs, including pituitary glands.
The chairman has confirmed that the inquiry has received considerable co-operation from each of the hospitals with which it is dealing and that the inquiry’s non-statutory nature has not thus far significantly hampered its substantive work. The chairman has indicated that she will provide a report on paediatric hospitals in December 2004. There are ongoing consultations with the inquiry on the other elements of its remit, having regard to the Government decision that the inquiry should conclude by 31 March next. Pending receipt of the chairman’s report, it would be inappropriate for me to comment on the actions of specific pharmaceutical companies.
Individual hospitals have adopted differing policies on the question of contacting next of kin of deceased persons whose pituitary glands were retained. For example, one hospital recently made contact with next of kin to advise them that pituitary glands of deceased relatives had been retained. I understand that some of those contacted were greatly distressed at the news. Subsequently, another hospital decided not to make direct contact with next of kin and instead placed notices in the newspapers inviting next of kin of patients who died during specific periods of time to make contact with the hospital if they wished to know whether glands had been retained.
By 31 August 2004, the inquiry had incurred direct expenditure of €11,577,610. This includes fees to the inquiry’s legal team and costs associated with the establishment, rental and administration of the inquiry office. My Department has also provided funding to the Eastern Regional Health Authority and Parents for Justice in respect of inquiry related expenditure amounting to €6,780,424. This brings the total expenditure relating to the inquiry to the end of August 2004 to €18.358 million.
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