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Parents had to take tot's body on 5-hour bus trip

The distraught parents of a baby boy who died had to take his remains on a bus journey to Dublin for an autopsy because there is no paediatric pathologist in Co Donegal.

The incident which occurred last week has prompted Coroner Dr John Madden to renew his call for a more sensitive protocol to be put in place in the northwest.

"Neither of the pathologists who are based in Co Donegal feel qualified to carry out post mortems on infants. Thankfully, the problem does not arise very often but when it does we need to have a protocol in place where someone is designated to do infant post-mortems for Donegal.

"That may mean going across the Border rather than accessing a pathologist in Dublin or Galway," he told the Irish Independent last night.

The two-week-old infant died in his sleep on November 24, 2009.

The young mother and father -- who have one other child -- were then forced, later that day, to endure a five-hour mini-bus journey with their child's coffin from their home in Buncrana to a Dublin hospital for a post-mortem.

Infant pathologists are only available in Dublin and Galway -- and in this case, the parents' journey time was shorter from Donegal to Dublin.

In accordance with procedure, the couple were accompanied on their journey by a local garda sergeant.

One parent is required to be present during the post-mortem.

It is understood the authorities covered the cost of the private transport.

Dr Madden said there was no other choice available to him because a post-mortem was required where a GP cannot certify the cause of death.

"The trauma of losing a child is bad enough but then to have to go through the added trauma of a five-hour journey to Dublin. It must have been awful.

"This should not be happening in this day and age. We should be a lot more sensitive to the needs of parents at a time like this," he said.

Dr Madden has written to the county secretary of Donegal Co Council demanding a resolution to what he described as the "extremely unfair" system currently in place. Dr Madden pointed out that he had written a letter two years ago following a similar situation, but nothing had happened since.

He said he had been told by the pathologist in Our Lady's Hospital in Crumlin that they would "entertain no more such requests for autopsies" from him or any of the four Donegal coroners in the future.

"If Temple Street decides the same, there will be no one who can do them," he said.

Buncrana councillor Rena Donaghey, who knows the family in question, last night described the current system as "a disgrace".

"As if it wasn't enough that this young couple was trying to cope with their grief, they then had to endure a five-hour journey with their child's body to Dublin.

"They had to stay overnight in Dublin and didn't get home to arrange their child's funeral until late the following night," said Cllr Donaghey.

"This is the second time in as many years this has happened in the Inishowen area and something has to be done about it.

"No other parents should have to go through what this young couple had to go through," said Cllr Donaghey.

A HSE spokesperson last night said that, in the event of an unexpected infant death, it is the responsibility of the coroner to source a paediatric pathologist.

"In the Republic, the nearest paediatric pathologist to Donegal is based in Dublin.

"The HSE's role is to provide the use of facilities to the Department of Justice at its hospitals to allow post-mortems to be carried out," said the spokesperson.

Source Irish Independent

Belfast Telegraph