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400 babies were dissected at universities

By Claire O’Sullivan

Irish Examiner, Friday, October 07, 2011

HUNDREDS of dead babies from mother-and-baby homes across the country were dissected in Irish universities — without the knowledge or permission of their mothers.

An RTÉ Prime Time investigation into the vaccine trials carried out in the homes, where unmarried women were sent to have their children, revealed that more than 400 babies were dissected by medical students around the country. The practice continued into the 1960s.

The Adoption Rights Alliance last night called for a state inquiry into how these dissections were sanctioned and into the vaccine trials that were regularly held on infants born in these homes.

"There are many more questions that need to be answered about this time and we are once again asking the Government to open up all adoption records to adopted people," said spokeswoman Claire McGettrick.

Up to 400 dead babies from St Patrick’s Mother and Baby Home on the Navan Road and the nearby St Kevin’s Hospital were sent for dissection.

In 1942 alone, 57 babies were sent to UCD, 34 to the Royal College of Surgeons and 27 to Trinity College Dublin. Between 1940 and 1965, 35 were sent to UCG.

Mari Steed was born at Bessborough Mother and Baby Home in Cork, but sent to the US to be adopted as a toddler. She has campaigned endlessly for adopted people to be given information on the vaccine trials they were subjected to.

"These latest revelations serve to further hit home how little we were though of. We were little more than a number. We weren’t worthy of a name or a decent burial plot," she said.

It has previously been revealed how hundreds of children born into these homes were subjected to vaccine trials by established international medical companies. The trials in Ireland were headed up by some of the country’s most eminent medical professionals.

The victims have spent years trying to access data on these trials but the religious orders will not release the files.

The Anatomical Committee of Irish Medical Schools issued a statement last night saying that "today such practices would be unacceptable".

A joint statement from the Departments of Health and Children said they "deeply regretted" these "outdated practices".

Earlier this month, the Irish Examiner revealed how adoption files held by the Sacred Heart Convent at Bessborough have yet to be transferred to the HSE — two months after the initial deadline for the transfer.

The files include those involving controversial vaccine trials carried out on children at the then mother-and-baby home.

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“In all of us there is a hunger, marrow-deep, to know our heritage, to know who we are and where we have come from. Without this enriching knowledge, there is a hollow yearning . . . and the most disquieting loneliness." 

Alex Haley, Author of Roots 





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