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Last Updated: Monday, 11 September 2006, 09:42 GMT 10:42 UK
Stolen body parts 'sold to NHS'
Alistair Cooke
Alistair Cooke died in 2004 at the age of 95
Potentially contaminated body parts allegedly stolen in the US may have been implanted into British patients, a government agency says.

Over 1,000 body parts were plundered by gangs in New York and then sold for transplants, it has been claimed.

Biomedical Tissue Services, the firm at the centre of the scandal, exported 77 body parts to the UK last year.

NHS regulator, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, said it had alerted 20 NHS trusts.

We would say any risk is minimum and this is just a precautionary measure
MHRA spokeswoman

Late last year, the US Food and Drug Administration ordered a recall of the potentially tainted products and warned that many patients could have been exposed to HIV and other diseases, but insisted the risk of infection was minimal.

New York investigators say death certificates were doctored to make the dead out to have been younger and healthier than they actually were.

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.

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.

Infected

A spokeswoman for the MHRA said: "It's not to say that the 77 body parts that were brought in came from stolen cadavers or were infected.

"But they did come from Biomedical Tissue Services and we alerted hospitals of this earlier in the year."

She added it was up to individual doctors to decide what to do in regards to removing the implants or deciding it was less risk to leave them in.

The body parts were all pieces of bone which were grafted on to patients needing hip or jaw operations.

The MHRA would not say exactly where in the UK the imported parts were sent because the procedures were unusual enough that the patients involved could be identified.

And the spokeswoman added: "We would say any risk is minimum and this is just a precautionary measure."




SEE ALSO
Four charged over US bones theft
23 Feb 06 |  Americas
Alistair Cooke's bones 'stolen'
22 Dec 05 |  Americas

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