Wednesday 22 May 2019

Professor wins appeal against giving child jabs probe evidence

A RETIRED UCD professor who was involved in the conduct of vaccination trials in 1960 and 1961 on 58 children in five institutions run by religious orders yesterday won a Supreme Court challenge to an order requiring him to give evidence before the Laffoy Commission regarding those trials.

The five-judge court unanimously granted the appeal by Prof Patrick Meenan (86) against a High Court order upholding the Commission's direction to him to give evidence before its Vaccine Trials Division.

Prof Meenan had said he should not have to appear on grounds of his age and ill-health.

The Commission was empowered to inquire into the conduct of the trials after some concerns were raised as to their ethical propriety.

No allegation of wrongdoing has been made against Prof Meenan, the Commission has stressed.

In granting the appeal, the Supreme Court held the Commission had not adhered to fair procedures in that, it had declined to consider medical reports regarding his health. It had also failed to at least consider his claim that he had no central role in the matters being inquired into.

The Chief Justice, Mr Justice Keane, said there was no indication in the report of the Chief Medical Officer of Health of any abuse of children having occurred in the institutions as a consequence of the vaccination trials. No person had complained of adverse consequences from the trials.

The Chief Justice noted Prof Meenan's consultant held the view he was not fit to undergo the stress of major examination and the Commission was told of that. He also noted Prof Meenan had given the Commission a seven-page statement setting out his involvement in the trials. The Commission had responded it envisaged his attendance would be required at further hearings

The Chief Justice said that, in considering whether the procedures adopted by the Commission accorded with natural and constitutional justice and vindicated Prof Meenan's right to privacy, the precise nature of the inquiry was plainly a relevant factor.

This, he said, was an inquiry into medical procedures used more than 40 years ago which, it would seem from evidence available to the courts, were conducted in accordance with then prevailing standards.

In a separate judgment Mr Justice Hardiman held Prof Meenan was not fairly treated by the Commission over the past six months. He believed the Commission failed to show sufficient sensitivity to the very great effort participation in the public forum sought might represent to a man in his 87th year.

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