The state is more concerned with defending itself against litigation than addressing the needs of vulnerable children reliant on state services Galway TD Denis Naughten has said.
Speaking in response to the RTÉ Investigates expose that the Department of Health maintained detailed files on children with autism who were involved in long-dormant litigation against the state.
These involved medical information from doctors, with the specific request that the family not be told that the state was gathering this information, as well as detailed school records.
Deputy Naughten said that the state has focused on defending the Department’s policies “at all costs” instead of acting in the interests of young children with special needs.
“It is absolutely disgusting that it seems at least one use of the information collated was ‘to strategise, to understand the mindset and mood of the families – to help them figure out if it would be a good time to approach them to withdraw their legal cases’.”
He added that from the defence of the practice by the Department since RTÉ revelations “that this approach to gathering personal information was common”.
In the immediate aftermath of the expose by RTÉ Investigates, Secretary General of the Department of Health Robert Watt released an open letter stating that department never “unlawfully held” sensitive medical or education information on children involved in dormant cases.
“The Minister for Health is regularly named in litigation, and one of the duties of the Department of Health is to manage cases effectively on behalf of the state, which sometimes includes review of sensitive information in order to settle or defend a case.”
Health Minister Stephen Donnelly has said that the department will conduct an “urgent” review of files where information was held on children with autism.
Denis Naughten said that the state needs to admit whether similar methods are used in other court cases, including medical negligence cases.
“Is it the case that children or adults, including the children impacted by Pandemrix Narcolepsy cases, the audiology misdiagnosis of children in the West or cervical cancer misdiagnosis cases, are being managed in a similar manner?”