A DUNMANWAY woman said she won’t give up fighting for answers regarding how the organs of her stillborn baby were incinerated without her permission in Belgium.
Laura Kelleher says her baby Hope was a fighter, and she owes it to her to be the same.
‘And I also want to make sure this absolutely horrific thing never happens to anyone else, a baby or anyone of any age,’ said Laura.
Laura and her husband Fintan, from Macroom, were thrilled to find out they were to become parents in 2019, and returned from their home in Perth to West Cork to share the good news with their families.
‘I was just home a week when complications arose and I was rushed to CUMH where I ended up spending three months,’ said Laura.
Tragically, baby Hope’s heart stopped beating on October 31st at 25 weeks, and she was delivered on November 3rd. ‘It was traumatic,’ remembers Laura. ‘But worse was to come.’
The couple sought guidance from CUMH for things to be done correctly after the death of Hope.
‘She had put up such a fight that we wanted to honour that,’ said Laura. The couple signed a consent form so that once her organs had been released after the post-mortem, they could be buried in the hospital graveyard, while Hope was buried in Dunmanway. They returned to Australia at the start of 2020.
An RTÉ Investigates report broadcast that September revealed the organs of 18 babies were sent to Belgium from CUMH in 2020 – without the knowledge or consent of their parents. Laura said she got a call from the hospital the day the programme went out, but that it was never stated baby Hope was one of them.
‘At that stage I still thought Hope’s organs were buried on holy ground,’ she said.
It was only when they watched the programme and spotted the date of Hope’s post-mortem on a document, they realised what had happened. ‘We rang the hospital the next day and they confirmed it, but there was no apology,’ said Laura.
‘The care I got in CUMH was incredible across the board – until this. Someone could have picked up the phone and given us the opportunity to make our own decision about what to do with Hope’s organs, but we never got the choice.’
She returned from Perth to take part in a protest outside CUMH last Saturday, calling for legislation to make sure organ retention is done appropriately.
‘I’m prepared to fight for Hope and the other families so this won’t happen again. I’m not going to rest until I get answers. I never knew how strong I was until this happened,’ said Laura.
A hospital review into the situation is ongoing. It was due to be published last November.
A statement from the South/South West Hospital Group said: ‘The external review which was commissioned by CUMH is ongoing. The review team has and continues to maintain regular contact with the families who participated in the review. Once completed the final report will be shared with all relevant stakeholders including the families involved.’