Vaccine trial files
will not be transferred to HSE
By Conall Ó Fátharta
Examiner, Wednesday, August 10, 2011
FILES relating to
controversial vaccine trials carried out on children at a Mother and
Baby Home run by the Sacred Heart Convent in Bessboro in Cork will not
be transferred to the HSE.
In a letter seen by the
Irish Examiner to one of the victims of the trials, Maureen Downey
Hickey, who was later adopted to the US, the HSE confirmed that while it
is to receive 15,000 adoption files from Bessboro, it "has been
advised that immunisation records will continue to be the responsibility
of the order".
The Irish Examiner reported last week that as the former adoption agency
has not applied for accreditation, and is not compelled to do so under
the Adoption Act, its adoption files will remain the private property of
the order and cannot be inspected by the Adoption Authority.
More than 210 infants and babies, some 123 of whom were in the care of
the state, took part in three confirmed trials to test vaccines between
1960 and 1973.
A number of people sent to the US for adoption and adopted domestically
have recently filed requests under the Data Protection Act, asking for
medical files and any evidence of their participation in the trials run
by the Wellcome Foundation — whose income came from British drugs
maker Burroughs Wellcome, which was later subsumed into GlaxoSmithKline.
Now adults, the participants say the drugs were given without parental
consent and they have spent years trying to access their medical files
and pharmaceutical information.
The office of the Data Protection Commissioner confirmed it has been in
touch with the Sacred Heart Sisters Order and was satisfied it is the
data controller in this instance and is therefore subject to and has
responsibilities under the Data Protection Act.
The Sisters of the Sacred Heart Order could not be contacted for comment
One of the victims of the trials at Bessboro, Mari Steed, said it was
"unacceptable" that files containing her medical history could
be deemed the private property of a religious order.
"The idea that immunisation records cannot be transferred with the
adoption files and are privately owned by the religious order in
question is an absolutely unacceptable scenario," Ms Steed said.
"They were merely the broker or subcontractor for my care.
Ultimately, the state contracted their services in shipping me to the
The Adoption Rights Alliance called on the Government to reinstate the
inquiry and said "questions must be asked as to why the Sacred
Heart Adoption Society did not supply the HSE with the files relating to
The Laffoy Commission on Child Abuse was investigating vaccine trials
between 1940 and 1987 as part of a separate module.
However, the investigation was brought to a sudden halt after court
action was taken by the doctors involved in the trials.
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