One of the victims of the Bessborough vaccine trial is to make a formal Garda complaint after it emerged files were altered in 2002.
On Tuesday, the Irish Examiner revealed the files of mothers and children used in the 1960/61 4-in-1 vaccine trial were altered in 2002 — just weeks after the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse sought discovery of records from the religious order running the home.
Mari Steed was born in Bessborough in 1960 and subsequently adopted in the US. Her natural mother’s file is one of those listed as having been changed. She plans to make a formal complaint to the gardaí and Data Protection Commissioner.
“Now that it’s been confirmed the information in my file has been altered, I feel I have an obligation to make both a Garda and data protection complaint. How many other files, not even relevant to the vaccine trials, may have been altered? People have a right to know this. I am awaiting legal advice on jurisdiction for the Garda filing and then will make both complaints as soon as possible,” she said.
Ms Steed also said Tusla, which now holds the records, had “an ethical, moral, and public interest” in contacting all of the people it can confirm were part of a trial.
The Irish Examiner put a series of questions to the Sisters of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary in relation to the document. It declined to answer any of them.
A statement from Ruairí Ó Catháin solicitors, representing the order, stated it had “no immediate knowledge of any specific event” concerning alterations made to records.
In a separate statement, the order said it wished to “categorically state that no documents were altered” and that it would deal with the Mother and Baby Homes Commission of Investigation on all such matters.
Material obtained under Freedom of Information shows that changes were made to the records of mothers and children used in the 1960/61 4-in-1 vaccine trials.
The Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse (CICA) had sought discovery of the records from the Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Mary on July 22, 2002. An affidavit was sworn on October 3, 2002, and on a number of later dates in 2002 and 2003.
The document listing the changes opens with: “8.8.02 Checked the 20 files.” This is immediately followed by: “9.8.02 Made the changes.” The changes made to files Nos 5, 8, 11, 12, and 15 to 20 are then detailed.
The changes include:
- The alteration of discharge dates of mothers (by a period of one year and two years);
- The changing of discharge dates of children;
- The changing of admission dates of mothers;
- The alteration of the age of a mother (by two years);
- The alteration of dates of adoption;
- The changing of baptism dates and location of baptism;
- The insertion of certain named locations and information into admission books.