Retained Organs Audit and Carter Report 2009

On July 23 2009 the HSE published an independent audit of retained organs and post mortem practices in Irish hospitals.  This audit was commissioned by the HSE following a recommendation of the Madden Report into Post Mortem Practice in Irish Hospitals. 

Organs or tissues are sometimes removed and retained as part of a post-mortem examination, primarily to allow for analysis of the cause of death.  In hospital post mortem services, this follows a detailed information and consent process with families.  Consent processes underwent enormous change and improvement following public anger in 1999 and 2000 about post mortem and organ retention practices in the UK and in Ireland.

The national audit was led by Ms. Michaela Willis MBE, a former member of the Human Tissue Authority in the UK and former member of the Retained Organs Commission, which previously oversaw similar audits in England. 

The audit’s main findings were:

  • Post mortem practices and numbers of organs retained in 35 hospitals and 5 universities were validated to the satisfaction of the audit team, with one additional hospital being validated later in June 2009.
  • Procedures and practices in post-mortem services were improved compared with the pre-2000 period, with much good and exemplary practice identified.
  • Opportunities for further improvement of post mortem and bereavement services were identified for each hospital and priorities for national action were proposed
  • There were 21,487 organs retained in the state at the time of the audit.  Approximately 10% of organs are retained in Universities/Colleges; approximately 78% of organs (16,759) relate to the pre-2000 period; and approximately 11% of organs (2,274) relate to the post-2000 period.
  • In the course of the audit, specific issues arose at the Rotunda Hospital, Dublin

The audit identified a number of issues at the Rotunda hospital, which required a separate investigation. This was undertaken on behalf of the HSE by a team chaired by Mr. Ian Carter, Chief Executive, St. James’s Hospital.

Read or Download both Reports on this page

Also available below:

2000 RCPI Faculty of Pathology Guidelines on Post Mortem Consent and Retention

2002 ERHA Guidelines on Post Mortem Services