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The BBC's Red Harrison
"The collections include at least 4000 parts from children"
 real 28k

NSW Chief Health Officer Dr Andrew Wilson
"We were pushing, when we started, to have a national approach to this"
 real 28k

Friday, 9 March, 2001, 07:31 GMT
Organ scandal hits Australia
Human organs being stored
Permission was not required in the past
Health officials in Australia have discovered that thousands of organs and body parts are being held by institutions after being removed without the consent of patients or the next of kin.

An audit carried out in the state of New South Wales found that up to 8,000 specimens held by hospitals, universities and museums were taken without consent.

It is this practice we are putting a stop to once and for all

Health Minister Craig Knowles
The report makes clear that the practice is not illegal.

But the New South Wales Health Minister, Craig Knowles, said the law would be amended to prevent the removal of organs without permission.

''It is likely that many of these may have been kept without the knowledge or permission of the next of kin,'' he said.

''It is this practice we are putting a stop to once and for all.''

British inquiry

The inquiry was ordered by the state government following the public outcry last year over the storing of body parts in British hospitals.

The report found that up to 25,000 body parts were being held in New South Wales.

Alder Hey Hospital in Britain
Alder Hey Hospital: British scandal focus
Two-thirds were the result of donations or routine surgery and the rest were taken during post-mortem examinations.

The collections include at least 4,000 parts from children, including nearly 1,000 hearts.

Mr Knowles said the audit found the storage of body parts was much more widespread than previously thought.

It found that the practice dated back to the late 1800s, with most of the tissue currently being held obtained before 1980.

Sweeping review

Mr Knowles said although none of the body parts were held illegally, most Australians would regard it as unacceptable not to obtain permission.

''It is a basic respect for the feelings of grieving loved ones,'' he said.

An official inquiry in England and Wales found that more than 100,000 organs were being stored and that many had been retained illegally.

The Alder Hey reported recommended sweeping review of practices and the drawing up a single national consent form.

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See also:

29 Jan 01 | Health
Organ scandal background
30 Jan 01 | Health
Alder Hey: Reports at a glance
04 Feb 01 | Scotland
Organ retention 'standard practice'
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