Friday 22 November 2019

Forensic pathologists will be trained here because of shortage of foreign candidates

State pathologist Professor Marie Cassidy. Photo: Collins Courts
State pathologist Professor Marie Cassidy. Photo: Collins Courts
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

The Department of Justice is to train State forensic pathologists in Ireland due to difficulties attracting them from abroad.

The move to a "grow our own" policy comes amid concerns over the department's ability to find a suitable replacement for deputy State pathologist Dr Michael Curtis, who is set to retire by the end of the year.

According to a department briefing given to new Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan, a training post will be established in the Office of the State Pathologist.

This is being seen as a longer-term solution to what the department described as a "worldwide shortage of persons training in the speciality".

There are currently three full-time pathologists - State pathologist Professor Marie Cassidy, and two deputies Dr Michael Curtis and Dr Linda Mulligan.

Regional support is provided on a part-time basis by Dr Margot Bolster.

Together they carried out 152 post-mortem examinations last year.

Both Prof Cassidy and Dr Curtis obtained their professional qualifications in the UK. They were hired from Scotland and Northern Ireland respectively.

Although Dr Mulligan qualified as a doctor at UCD and worked at a number of Irish hospitals before her appointment, she subsequently obtained other qualifications in London.

Dr Mulligan's predecessor, Saudi-born Dr Khalid Jaber, gained most of his qualifications in the US.

Following Dr Jaber's controversial resignation in November 2013 his position was not filled for 10 months, during which time there was concern about the workload of the Office of the State Pathologist.

Dr Jaber left after criticising the way in which the office was run and suggested Prof Cassidy was not suitably qualified to lead it. The criticisms were rejected by the department, which gave its full backing to Prof Cassidy.

It emerged earlier this year that Prof Cassidy was conducting a review of cases Dr Jaber was involved with in 2012 and 2013 amid concern that his work was not peer reviewed in line with policy.

Three homicide cases were affected.

Meanwhile, officials told Mr Flanagan hospital consultants are seeking significantly increased fees to conduct coroner post-mortem examinations.

The department is planning discussions with the Irish Hospital Consultants Association about their demands.

Irish Independent

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