Six hospitals have admitted they secretly sold organs from the bodies of deceased children to pharmaceutical firms.
The hospitals have revealed that they collected pituitary glands for Pharmacia Ireland and Kabi Vitrum in the 1980s.
The glands were used to extract human growth hormone administered to children with growth problems, at a time when the hormone could not be made synthetically.
The harvesting of organs without their consent has angered the families of deceased children.
The Parents for Justice group said it has reliable information that many more pharmaceutical companies and hospitals were involved in the retention, sale and export of organs for making medicinal products.
The group, which says it represents over 900 families whose children or adult relatives had their organs retained without their knowledge or consent, had called on the hospitals and companies to admit their involvement, warning that otherwise it would name them.
It said it had also been reliably informed there was wholesale export of body parts for profit. There was a “paper trail” in existence to confirm the information, it claimed.
At a press conference this afternoon, Fionnuala O’Reilly of Parents for Justice said many more pharmaceutical companies were involved in the procurement of children’s glands without the consent or knowledge of their parents.
As well as pituitary glands, these included adrenal, thyroid and pancreatic glands, which were harvested by hospitals and supplied to pharmaceutical companies to make various medicinal products.
“Payment was widespread and payment was made,” she said.
Ms O’Reilly said Parents for Justice would prefer that the companies disclose the information voluntarily and “do the decent thing” by families whose children’s organs were retained.
“If pressed, we are prepared to identify the companies involved,” Ms O’Reilly said.
A number of hospitals had previously removing brains and other organs from the bodies of children, but questions remained over their motivation.
Government attempts to inquire into the organ removal and retention scandal fell foul of affected families because the Dunne Inquiry, set up by the state almost four years ago, had no statutory powers. Parents for Justice withdrew from the Inquiry in 2002.
Today Ms O’Reilly said her group had seen some documentation in recent days confirming that there were indications of a “multi-million” pound industry in the sale of children’s organs.
“This finally explains to families why so many organs, which were unrelated to the cause of death of their children, were removed,” Ms O’Reilly said.
This included cases where children who died from cardiac problems had “every organ removed”.