An investigation is under way after a devastated mother claimed her tragic baby son's brain was thrown away by a hospital "like a piece of rubbish".

Organs of 18 babies were last year sent to Belgium from one of Ireland's biggest hospitals for incineration without the knowledge or consent of their bereaved parents.

Leona Bermingham and Glenn Callanan have spoken of their horror at the heartbreaking discovery.

The couple's trauma will be shown on Irish TV programme RTE Investigates on Prime Time on Tuesday evening.

All 18 families were contacted by Cork University Maternity Hospital last May to inform them that the organs of their deceased babies – many of whom had died months earlier – had been incinerated.

It took place across two days in late March and early April last year, the Irish Mirror reports.

Cork University Maternity Hospital is investigating the tragedy (

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Alamy Stock Photo)

The pair were overjoyed to discover they were expecting twins, however in September 2019, Leona and Glenn’s twin boys, Lee and Lewis, were delivered at 33 weeks by emergency c-section at CUMH.

Hours later, baby Lee died.

In May 2020, the mum received an unexpected call from CUMH to say that the organs that they retained belonging to Lee had been incinerated and that they wouldn't be able to get them back.

Leona: "My son's brain went into a bin, as if it was a piece of rubbish, you put rubbish in a bin - why would you put my beautiful son's brain into a bin?"

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But Leona and Glenn were not the only family affected.

Documentation released to them under Freedom of Information legislation reveals the organs of a total of 18 babies were sent to Belgium for incineration without the knowledge or consent of their bereaved parents.

Rachael Liston, the family's solicitor, said: "It is like a double trauma for the family, they have lost a baby in very sad circumstances and then to learn subsequently that their baby’s brain has been incinerated is so traumatic.

"There’s a big difference between burying or cremating an organ and incinerating it with clinical waste which could include the likes of dressings or needles."

The South/South West Hospital Group has confirmed to RTÉ it has commissioned an investigation into the events that led to the incineration of baby organs.

Seventeen months after the incident first came to the attention of hospital management, the review is only at an early stage.

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