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The BBC's Fergus Walsh
"From the families there was pain and anger"
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The BBC's Alison Holt
"Every organ was taken from every child who had a post-mortem"
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The BBC's Social Affairs Editor Niall Dickson
"The shockwaves from this scandal are spreading wider"
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Tuesday, 30 January, 2001, 17:35 GMT
Police to probe Alder Hey
Alder Hey Hospital
Practices at Alder Hey Hospital have been condemned
A pathologist may face criminal charges after a damning report into the "illegal stripping" of thousands of body parts from dead babies.

An official inquiry found that Professor Dick van Velzen was allowed to systematically strip every organ from children who died at Alder Hey hospital in Liverpool, frequently lying to parents and falsifying medical records.

Those who did wrong will now be held to account.The pain caused to the parents by this dreadful sequence of events is unforgivable.

Alan Milburn
A separate report highlighting the scale of the organ scandal in other parts of the NHS, revealed that more than 100,000 body parts have been stockpiled in other UK hospitals - many without the consent of relatives and most of which have never been used for medical research.

On Alder Hey, Chief Medical Professor Liam Donaldson said: "It's a terrible report. I thought the pathologist at the centre of it, Professor Dick van Velzen, his practice was shocking, it was cruel and it had no spark of humanity in it whatsoever. It's the most terrible report I've ever read on a health service issue.

"We need to regain a lot of public trust. If we don't the benefits of teaching and research are going to be lost."

'Devastated families'

Ed Bradley, chairman of the families' support group Pity II, whose daughter Niamh's heart, lungs and brain were kept at Alder Hey, said: "The last 17 months has been harrowing and have had a devastating effect on all the families involved."

Tony Bell, the Chief Executive of the Alder Hey hospital trust has said they "deeply regretted the serious mistakes" highlighted in the report by QC Michael Redfern.

"Clearly however changes must be made particularly in the way we involve parents in decisions about their children," he said.

The General Medical Council will meet on Friday to consider taking interim action which could bar Van Velzen from practising.

Health Secretary Alan Milburn said his behaviour was 'unforgivable' and that he should never be allowed to practise again in the UK.

He promised legislation to force doctors to obtain informed consent from relatives before removing organs in future.

There will also be a new statutory code of practice on the release of organs from the NHS to pharmaceutical companies, and a standardised consent form for the removal of organs.

'Brought to justice'

Mr Milburn pledged that those who did wrong would be brought to justice.

"Those who did wrong will now be held to account.The pain caused to the parents by this dreadful sequence of events is unforgiveable.

"I am deeply sorry for the wrong that was done to them, their families and their children."

The acting chairman and two non-executive directors of the trust have already resigned following the damning criticism. Four staff members, including former chief executive Hilary Rowland have also been suspended.

The Health Secretary said a commission would be set up to oversee the return of organs and tissues to families, should they wish to have them.

Welsh health minister Jane Hutt has also issued new guidelines to all hospitals in Wales in the wake of the Alder Hey organs scandal.

In addition to holding over 2,000 hearts, it was revealed that Alder Hey hospital had also removed and retained a large number of brain parts, eyes taken from foetuses, over 1,500 still births or foetuses and parts of heads taken from children up to 11 years old.

But some parents might never find out whether their children's organs are being stored due to inadequate records.

Dr Ian Bogle, chairman of the British Medical Association, said: "I am deeply shocked that during the Van Velzen years, organs were removed from children in a systematic and underhand way and that even worse, no real research was conducted on these children's organs so that there was no possible benefit to patient care."

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30 Jan 01 | UK
Milburn's statement in full
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