News: Hospitals Admit Selling Organs

By Frank Shouldice, Contributor
October / November 2004

A number of hospitals in Ireland admitted they had taken glands without consent during post-mortem examinations of patients during the 1980s. The practice, which appears to have been widespread, involved the sale or donation of glands to pharmaceutical companies engaged in the manufacture of human growth hormones.

A spokesman for Temple Street Hospital for children confirmed that 246 pituitary glands had been collected at the hospital between 1979 and 1985. Parents were not consulted about removing the glands. The same practice occurred at hospitals all over the country, and revelations of procedures taking place without consent have drawn an angry response from bereaved parents.

Fionnuala O’Reilly, chairperson of the Parents for Justice group, said there was evidence of “wholesale” export of organs and glands for the manufacture of pharmaceutical products. However, spokespersons at various hospitals and health boards insist that body parts were supplied at no financial gain. They say the provision of glands was to assist medical research into hormone deficiency. The practice ceased around 1986 when scientists developed techniques to grow hormones artificially.

Three years ago the government set up the Dunne Inquiry to examine hospital practice in Ireland on the sale of organs taken from deceased children. The Inquiry has yet to complete its investigations. ♦

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