Dáil Éireann - Volume 514 - 10 February, 2000

Written Answers. - Hospital and Medical Practices.

95. Mr. Browne (Carlow-Kilkenny) asked the Minister for Health and Children if the children's organs removed and retained in Our Lady's Hospital for Sick Children, Crumlin, were at any time or under any circumstances the source of financial gain or formed part of any commercial transaction with any other institution within the country or abroad. [3888/00]

96. Mr. Browne (Carlow-Kilkenny) asked the Minister for Health and Children if any children's organs, removed and retained in Our Lady's Hospital for Sick Children, Crumlin, were trans[498] ferred to any other hospital, medical school or pharmaceutical company at any time. [3889/00]

Minister for Health and Children (Mr. Martin): I propose to take Questions Nos. 95 and 96 together.

I have had inquiries made of Our Lady's Hospital for Sick Children, Crumlin, in the matters raised by the Deputy. I have been informed by the hospital that it is an established practice among hospitals to transfer organs to other hospitals' laboratories. This most commonly arises where a second opinion is required or when technical or professional expertise available in a different institution is required. Organs were and continue to be transferred from Our Lady's Hospital for Sick Children, Crumlin, to other hospitals in contexts such as these. The hospital authorities have informed me that it has no knowledge of organs being transferred to any medical school from the hospital. With regard to transfers of organs to a pharmaceutical company, or organs being a source of financial gain or forming part of any commercial transaction within this State or abroad, the hospital has confirmed that save as stated below it has no knowledge of any participation by the hospital in such transactions.

The hospital has confirmed that for many years there was no medical treatment for the condition commonly known as short stature. In the early 1960s a growth hormone was developed in the USA using human pituitary gland as a source. Pharmaceutical companies were involved in the development and a national pituitary agency was set up in the USA to manufacture growth hormone and prepare it for injection. In Ireland hospitals were involved in the effort to avail of this growth hormone product, there being no other way to treat children with this condition other than the pituitary gland derived product at that time. The hospital understands that a significant number of glands were required to produce a small amount of the product and that the treatment to children involved multiple injections over a lengthy period of time.

Development in genetics in or about 1985 allowed that human growth hormone could be produced without extracting the material from the pituitary gland.

The hospital also understands that about the same time health concerns arose in relation to the growth hormone product from the pituitary gland. The hospital has confirmed that there is an indication in correspondence located in its laboratory that the laboratory participated in this process of extracting pituitary glands which were then supplied to a pharmaceutical company called Kabi Vitrum to produce growth hormone for the treatment of children. Between June 1980 and November 1981 a contribution towards the cost of the work of extracting the glands was made by the pharmaceutical company in question. The contribution identified is £109.50 which was payable to the Children's Research Centre.

This is one of the issues which will be examined [499] under the inquiry into post-mortem practices at the hospital, the establishment of which I announced yesterday.