The bodies of British citizens who die in Spain are being returned by the Spanish authorities minus internal organs, it has emerged.
Organs were kept without relatives' knowledge
There is not thought to be any sinister motive for this - the organs are retained for research or simply incinerated following post mortems.
But a Nottinghamshire coroner who highlighted the practice said families found it distressing.
Campaigners have called for an EU directive on organ retention so that standards across the union match those in the UK.
Nottinghamshire coroner Dr Nigel Chapman uncovered the problem when relatives of a dead Briton asked for a second post mortem after the body arrived back home.
Jean Bell, from Nottinghamshire, was told the heart was missing from her son Clive, who had died in Spain.
Now she faces a lengthy legal battle to force the Spanish authorities to return the organ.
It is thought that many similar cases go unreported or undiscovered.
Mrs Bell's solicitor, Mervyn Fudge, told BBC News a number of similar cases were pending.
He said: "Unfortunately I think it's reasonably common - we have a number of cases in our office where the body has come back and the family has requested a second post mortem.
"The coroner has been unable to do it because there have been no organs present in the body when it is returned."
He said that standards of "disclosure" had advanced in the UK in the wake of the Alder Hey scandal - in which hundreds of body parts were retained without the knowledge of relatives.
"Europeans are lagging behind now," he said.
Dr Chapman told BBC News: "I have had four or five cases where these organs were missing.
"I don't think that there is anything sinister behind this."
The Foreign Office says it has no powers to intervene in how another EU country carries out post mortems.
The Spanish authorities were not available for comment.