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Last Updated: Wednesday, 18 October 2006, 12:29 GMT 13:29 UK
Patients may sue over body parts
Alistair Cooke
Alistair Cooke's body was reported to be one of those plundered
Several patients who may have had contaminated US body parts implanted during NHS operations are considering legal action.

A health watchdog revealed in September that the parts may have been implanted into patients in over 20 NHS trusts.

More than 1,000 body parts were allegedly plundered by gangs in New York and then sold for transplants.

One patient said she was in "torment", waiting to find out if she has had contaminated bone implanted.

"I am now in torment wondering whether I have contracted anything from these illegal implants
Suzanne Green, patient

Suzanne Green, 32, from Caerphilly was one of the patients treated with suspected stolen body parts.

She was being treated for a fractured spine and ankle at the University Hospital of Wales during September 2005.

Mrs Green said "I can't believe what is happening, it's horrific."

"I did not even know I had received a bone graft during my operation until September of this year.

"I am now in torment wondering whether I have contracted anything from these illegal implants.

"I am awaiting the results of blood tests to see whether I currently have any of the possible infections identified, but I am unsure at the moment what the long-term implications with be."

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency and the Welsh Assembly alerted over 20 NHS trusts that they may have used the parts.

'Tip of iceberg'

Late last year, the US Food and Drug Administration ordered a recall of the potentially tainted products.

It warned many patients could have been exposed to HIV and other diseases but insisted the risk of infection was minimal.

New York investigators said death certificates were doctored, suggesting that people were younger and healthier when they died than was actually the case.

The tissue, in the form of skin, bone and tendons, was later sold for use in procedures like dental implants and hip replacements.

Four people have pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Unsure of numbers

The body of veteran BBC broadcaster Alistair Cooke, who died of cancer aged 95 in March 2004, was reported to have been caught up in the case.

Clive Garner from Irwin Mitchell solicitors, who are acting for patients who may sue US individuals and organisations, said: "This is only the tip of the iceberg. In total 25 hospitals across the UK have been identified as having received body parts from this illegal operation.

"At present we do not know just how many people have been treated with these bone products."

X-rays showing how bones were replaced with pipes

Stolen body parts 'sold to NHS'
11 Sep 06 |  Health
Four charged over US bones theft
23 Feb 06 |  Americas
Alistair Cooke's bones 'stolen'
22 Dec 05 |  Americas

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