The “unclaimed bodies” of 474 children, who died in mother and baby homes, were used for doctor’s training at Irish universities until the mid-1960s.
The remains of the infants were used in research and anatomy training with no evidence of obtained consent. The Irish Independent reports that this practice took place from 1940 to 1965 for the "study of the anatomy and the structure of the human body" at University College Dublin, Trinity College Dublin, the Royal College of Surgeons Dublin, and the National University of Ireland, Galway. The universities were permitted to receive bodies donated by the individual or volunteered by a next-of-kin or loco parentis under the Anatomy Act of 1832.
This revelation has come just as the Irish government has launched a state inquiry into the deaths of infants at mother and baby homes in Ireland. Their decision was prompted by the discovery of a mass grave of 796 children buried next to a former home in Tuam, County Galway. There were ten such mother and baby homes, both Catholic and Protestant church-run, in Ireland.
The practice of using remains without obtained consent continued at the Irish universities until a campaign by college professors was initiated to encourage voluntary donation.
The universities have established helplines to provide information to individuals who are searching for details about the remains of their relatives.
The use of these 474 infants remains will be part of the Irish government’s investigation into the treatments of those mothers and children under the care of the homes. Ireland’s Department of Health will draw up a Human Tissue Bill to set out arrangements for the donation of bodies to the anatomy schools.