The Pediatric Cardiac Surgery Inquest Report



Post-mortem events

During the course of proceedings it was revealed that the HSC Department of Pathology had retained Jessica's heart following the autopsy. It is not known if this fact was ever revealed to the family. There is no explicit written consent allowing the HSC to retain the heart. While this question did not become an issue during the course of the Inquest, it has been a focus of public concern in other jurisdictions.

The authorization that parents sign when giving consent to an autopsy is an unrestricted authorization. However, parents can, if they choose, place restrictions on the autopsy, and in at least one case, the parents of a child whose death is under examination by this Inquest did so. Despite this, there is nothing in the consent form that provides parents with the knowledge that their child's heart may-and, indeed, probably will-be retained by the hospital.

Some cultures place an emphasis on dealing with the entire body when a person dies. Such cultures may require that limbs that are amputated, organs that are removed, the after-birth, and even hair cuttings must be treated with the same respect as one's body is after death. Even in cultures that do not have such traditions, parents may experience significant stress and anger on discovering that their child's heart was not buried with the rest of their child's body, but was retained in the facility where their child died.

It is recognized that the HSC did not retain the hearts of children who underwent autopsies for capricious reasons. These hearts were used in teaching and were in fact examined as a part of this Inquest. However, the rights of the parents to make an informed decision about what is to become of their child's body cannot be ignored. That gives rise to a recommendation at the end of this report.



Current Home - Table of Contents - Chapter 6 - Post-mortem events
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Section 1 Chapter 1 - Introduction to the Issues
  Chapter 2 - Pediatric Cardiac Issues
  Chapter 3 - The Diagnosis of Pediatric Heart Defects and their Surgical Treatment
  Chapter 4 - The Health Sciences Centre
Section 2 Chapter 5 - Pediatric Cardiac Surgery in Winnipeg 1950-1993
  Chapter 6 - The Restart of Pediatric Cardiac Surgery in 1994
January 1, 1994 to May 17, 1994
  Chapter 7 - The Slowdown
May 17 to September 1994
  Chapter 8 - Events Leading to the Suspension of the Program
September 7, 1994 to December 23, 1994
  Chapter 9 - 1995 - The Aftermath of the Shutdown
January to March, 1995
Section 3 Chapter 10 - Findings and Recommendations
Appendix 1 - Glossary of terms used in this report
Appendix 2 - Parties to the Proceedings and counsel
Appendix 3 - List of witnesses and dates of testimony
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