The Department of Health has revealed that in the early 80s, Crumlin Children's Hospital gave tissue from children's brains to a pharmaceutical company in return for a donation to the hospital's research centre. In announcing an inquiry into organ retention and post mortem practices at the hospital, Minister for Health Mícheál Martin, revealed that in the early 1980s, the children's hospital gave pituitary glands from the brains of dead children to a pharmaceutical company for the manufacture of growth hormones, without parental knowledge. It has already emerged that the hospital had removed organs from dead children without their parents' knowledge and retained the organs after post mortems.
Today, a spokesman for Our Lady's Hospital for Sick Children in Crumlin said their incomplete records show that between June 1980 and October 1981, pituitary glands of dead children's brains were removed and given to a pharmaceutical company to manufacture growth hormones for children. The records indicate that some 70 pituitary glands were provided. Two donations, worth a total of £109.50 were given to the Children's Research Centre in the hospital. The spokesman said there was no commercial practice involved, and it was an established practice at the time. The hospital welcomed the inquiry announced by the Minister. The spokesman said the hospital accepted that no informed consent was sought at the time, and regretted the hurt and pain caused.
The spokesman said that the glands were accessed only when the brains were removed from the body for post mortem purposes. He said glands were not removed from the brain unless there was a diagnostic reason to access the brain. The glands were processed by the pharmaceutical company to manufacture a growth hormone, injected into children with short stature. This was the only treatment available at the time. In 1985, a new method of creating the hormone was developed in the United States, and the practice of using the pituitary glands was ended.
The Parents for Justice support group has welcomed the news of the inquiry, but said they felt doubly betrayed by the latest revelations. Last year, the disclosure that organs were retained by Our Lady's Hospital without parental knowledge led to pressure from parents for a full inquiry into post mortem practices. Following a meeting with the support group, Parents for Justice, the Minister announced an inquiry into all issues relating to post mortem examinations, organ removal, organ retention and organ disposal, at Crumlin, and other hospitals if necessary. Mr Martin said the terms of reference for the inquiry are being finalised with the Attorney General and the support group, Parents for Justice.