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Lord Hunt, Health Minister
"We want to make sure we learn the lessons"
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Prof Liam Donaldson
"The present arrangements for giving consent are not adequate."
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Sunday, 5 December, 1999, 23:06 GMT
Child-organ surgeon 'warned of time-bomb'
Professor van Velzen Professor van Velzen says he has done nothing wrong

The Dutch pathologist at the centre of the Alder Hey hospital child organs controversy has denied he is some sort of "Dr Frankenstein".

Professor Dick van Velzen stands accused of removing organs from hundreds of dead children without informing parents while working at the Liverpool hospital between 1988 and 1995.

They are trying to describe me as a kind of Dr Frankenstein, just to get themselves off the hook
Professor Dick van Velzen
"I warned management from 1993 that from the ethical point of view it was a time-bomb," he told the Netherland's NOS television channel on Sunday evening.

"Obviously, I never removed organs without authorisation. I take my speciality seriously. The parents have been betrayed and consciously lined up against me by the hospital," he added.

'No explanation'

Prof Van Velzen said the removal of hearts, lungs, livers and kidneys was not carried out secretly or illegally and was practised only during post-mortem examinations to try to ascertain the cause of death.

"These are the organs of children for whom we did not know the cause of death. In these cases, a coroner ordered an autopsy," he said.

Liam Donaldson Prof Donaldson: Concerns over health service practices
"The shame is that the hospital never wanted to put money into this research. It is also shameful that they never gave the parents proper explanations for the deaths of their children."

He also said he had kept a file of requests made to hospital managers to halt the practice.

The professor, who now works at Westeind Hospital in the Hague, told the Sunday Times: "I will come to England with all my papers. I will meet any parents, face any inquiry or any court case."

Parents angry

However Keith and Janet Valentine, whose baby Kayleigh's organs were removed after unsuccessful hole in the heart surgery 10 years ago, dismissed claims that Professor van Velzen was restricted by a lack of funding.

Mr Valentine, 39, said: "Maybe the money was a factor but unfortunately for him he was instrumental in my daughter being mutilated.

Kayleigh Valentine Kayleigh Valentine's death is to be investigated
"I would like to see his head on the chopping block. He seems to be adamant that he just did his job and he's in the clear.

"But he was there and he did this to my daughter, he has to take his share of the blame."

The outcry over Alder Hey Hospital led the government to announce a public inquiry on Friday.

Britain's Chief Medical Officer Liam Donaldson said on Saturday that changes to the law might be necessary, because many parents did not understand the full implications of signing consent forms.

A survey conducted by the BBC revealed that seven of Britain's leading health trusts admitted parents might not always have been aware that their deceased children's organs had been removed.

Teaching hospitals, including St James's Hospital in Leeds and Southampton General Hospital, will be part of an investigation into the issue of organ "retention" across NHS trusts in England.

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See also:
04 Dec 99 |  Health
Organ laws may be tightened
04 Dec 99 |  Health
Doctor's 'life of helping children'
03 Dec 99 |  Health
Organ removal: the legal background
03 Dec 99 |  Health
Organ stripping: The reaction
03 Dec 99 |  Health
Inquiry into organ scandal
07 Oct 99 |  Health
Child organ stockpile prompts inquiry
27 Sep 99 |  Health
Hospital will return children's hearts
16 Jul 99 |  Health
Organ donor reform rejected

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