'Horror Story' | 

RTÉ Investigates reveals parents’ ‘anger’ about organ retention after post-mortems

Speaking on tonight’s special broadcast, Cavan couple Paula and Jonny Doyle explain that their baby Tadhg was stillborn in June 2016.

Grieving parents Jonny and Paula Doyle from Cavan spoke to RTÉ Investigates.

Neasa CumiskeySunday World

Irish parents will open up about feeling “anger” about their babies’ organs being retained without consent in tonight’s RTÉ Investigates special report.

The programme reveals how recently bereaved parents have discovered the practice of organ retention has continued long after an investigation into the Rotunda Maternity Hospital in Dublin in the mid 2000s which found that dozens of children’s organs were being held for lengthy periods of time without their families knowing.

Many of the issues highlighted in the 2009 report were linked to post-mortems conducted by pathologist Dr John Gillan.

More than a decade later, the HSE conducted its own internal review of Ireland’s post-mortem practices and discovered that multiple baby organs were sent abroad for incineration without the knowledge or consent of their parents.

Its findings were released over the summer and highlighted “unsatisfactory” practices undertaken by a retired pathologist hired on an ad hoc basis.

RTÉ Investigates can reveal that the consultant in question is Dr John Gillan, the same pathologist at the centre of the Rotunda findings.

Speaking on tonight’s special broadcast, Cavan couple Paula and Jonny Doyle explain that their baby Tadhg was stillborn in June 2016.

They had received his initial post-mortem report, which was completed by Dr John Gillan, but there was no mention of organ retention.

“It was November 2017, so Tadhg was a year and five months dead and buried, and I was sitting in the local town diner having a cup of coffee,” Paula says.

“The phone rang and it was the morgue - ‘You have filled in a form incorrectly and I have your son’s brain and his left lung. What do you want me to do?’

“And I was obviously kind of ‘Come again? Sorry, what do you mean?’”

And after the HSE’s inquest, the Doyles buried Tadhg’s organs - five and a half years after his death.

Jonny says: “When I got to the back of the car it just hit me the box was tiny, was so small, smaller than the first time and I picked it up and I had that overwhelming sense of just never letting it go again and I didn’t want to put it down.

“It is the cruellest thing you can do. It is hard enough losing your son without them keeping bits of him and not telling you. It makes me angry, that’s all I feel, all I ever feel is anger.”

Michaela Willis, the auditor commissioned by the Irish Government to investigate retained organs in the mid 2000s, expresses her shock upon learning that the malpractice was still continuing years after her report.

"This is an area where this individual was slated for the practice in the past,” she tells RTÉ Investigates.

“I can’t begin to imagine how families who were affected previously feel right now. The buck stops with the HSE. The HSE were the people who commissioned me to write a report. It now appears that it was possibly lip service and it's now been put on a shelf.

"Very serious questions need to be asked of the Minister and the HSE and there needs to be a thorough overhaul of the practices that are currently happening in Ireland.

“If you don’t learn from the past, the world’s a very dangerous place,” she adds.

Watch RTÉ Investigates special report on Thursday at 9.35pm on RTÉ One and RTÉ Player.

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