Some babies in medical studies had no recorded name
Published 26/06/2014 | 02:30
SOME of the deceased infants, whose unclaimed remains were used for research and doctors' training in universities, have no recorded name or even a gender, it has emerged.
A spokesman for NUI Galway, which obtained 35 bodies of infants for anatomical study in its medical school between 1940 and 1964, told the Irish Independent that little or no information is available about their origins.
The infants were among 474 "unclaimed remains" which were transferred to the medical schools of four medical universities for over a quarter of a century for research and study purposes.
NUI Galway received the remains from the Central Hospital Galway and later the Regional Hospital Galway, rather than directly from mother and baby homes. While the records show when the remains were received, and in some cases the gender of the infant, no other personal details are on file.
The nameless infants add to the sad memory of a practice which continued until the mid- 1960s when the professors of anatomy themselves campaigned for public donation.
The other infant remains were transferred to the medical schools of University College Dublin, Trinity College and the Royal College of Surgeons which were directly supplied by mother and baby homes including St Patrick's Home, St Kevin's Hospital, Dublin Union and Temple St/Regina Coeli.
The anatomical committee of Irish medical schools said yesterday that their register shows "the majority of deceased infants names were recorded along with the cause of death".
The Anatomy Act of 1832 allowed the medical schools to be supplied with the infant remains, without their relatives' consent, for the study of the anatomy and structure of the human body. The full extent of the practice, which has been known of in medical literature for decades, was confirmed by this newspaper and our report has led to the first helplines to be set up for any family or relatives who want to inquire about a deceased infant.
It took on a new significance in the light of revelations about the discovery of mass infant deaths at St Mary's Home in Tuam and a pledge by the Government to set up an inquiry into the care and standards in mother and baby homes.
Health Minister James Reilly said yesterday that he wanted the use of unclaimed remains to be part of the larger investigation.
Dr Reilly, who was a medical student in the 1970s, after the practice had stopped, said: "This absolutely needs to be part of the investigation and I have no doubt that it will. Those practices do not happen currently."
He added: "It relates to a long time past but they were terrible times."