Some good from the heartbreak: Cork mother welcomes approval of Human Tissue bill 

“It will reassure future grieving families that the law will protect their loved ones’ organs." 
Some good from the heartbreak: Cork mother welcomes approval of Human Tissue bill 

Speaking to The Echo, Leona Bermingham, said she was “absolutely delighted” to learn the Bill was today approved by Cabinet. Picture: Larry Cummins

A CORK mother affected by the organ incineration scandal has welcomed Cabinet approval of the Human Tissue Bill, which she said will bring reassurance to future grieving families about their loved ones’ organs.

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly brought the Human Tissue (Transplantation, Post-Mortem, Anatomical Examination and Public Display) Bill to the Cabinet for approval.

The composite Bill will be published in the coming days and is expected to be brought to the Oireachtas shortly thereafter.

Mr Donnelly described it as a “significant piece of legislation” that includes provisions around post-mortem practice and procedures in hospital settings, anatomical examination, the public display of bodies after death and organ donation and transplantation.

"Crucially, the Bill will embed in legislation the idea that consent is the defining principle across all these sensitive areas and will establish a regulatory framework for the conduct of these activities,” Mr Donnelly said.

The families of 18 babies whose organs were sent abroad for incineration from Cork University Hospital on two occasions in 2020 without the knowledge or consent of bereaved parents have campaigned for the publication of the Bill, which was due to be published before the end of 2021.

Speaking to The Echo, Leona Bermingham, the mother of one of the babies, said she was “absolutely delighted” to learn the Bill was approved by Cabinet.

Ms Bermingham and her partner Glenn Callanan were the first of the 18 families to go public about the scandal.

Their son, Lee, died hours after Leona had given birth to him and his twin brother, Lewis, by emergency C-section.

“I think if any good is to come from our unnecessary heartbreak, it’s this legislation being passed.

“It will reassure future grieving families that the law will protect their loved ones’ organs.

“It took so much courage for me and Glenn to talk publicly and share our story, but I think this legislation being passed has made it worth it. I just hope we have done Lee proud,” Ms Bermingham said.

Meanwhile, Cork Senator Tim Lombard also welcomed Cabinet’s approval of the Bill.

“I hope it will help to bring closure to the families who have been so badly affected by lack of regulation and lack of a legal framework regarding organs in particular." 

The Fine Gael Senator said he wished to pay tribute to Laura and Fintan Kelleher, who were also affected by the organ incineration scandal and who had launched a petition calling for the publication of the Bill.

On Friday, families affected by the scandal were furnished with a long-awaited Systems Analysis Report on the circumstances leading to the incineration of the organs without the parents’ consent or knowledge.

The published Systems Analysis Report, a 124-page document, states in summary that the review team concluded that the incineration of the organs was “a misguided decision” and a deviation from local policy and national standards.

The Health Minister today said the Human Tissue Bill “also recognises the need to introduce safeguards to protect the integrity of the human body before and after death”.

“Crucially, it will implement the recommendations of the Madden Report regarding consent provisions while the independent regulatory regime being established will help to ensure that the new best practice guidelines being developed by the HSE are complied with by every hospital across the country,” he continued.

The new Bill, Mr Donnelly said, will also essentially create an “opt-out system for organ donation in Ireland” aimed at increasing the country’s donor pool.

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