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BBC's Daniela Relph reports
"Parents knew nothing of any organ removal"
 real 28k

Tuesday, 21 December, 1999, 12:02 GMT
Hospital apologises for organ stripping

baby Organs removed from children's bodies without consent

Alder Hey Children's Hospital has apologised for taking organs from children's bodies without consent, after an inquiry concluded senior doctors and managers must have known what was going on.

Following publication of the inquiry report into the removal of organs without parents' knowledge, the hospital admitted the practice was "unacceptable".

Dr Stephen Gould, the consultant paediatric pathologist who carried out the inquiry, said consultants and bosses at the hospital must have been aware that organ retention during post mortems had become routine.

The Myrtle Street collection was clearly unacceptable and we apologise for any distress caused to parents
Hilary Rowland, Alder Hey Hospital
He called for an investigation into the Department of Foetal and Infant Pathology at the Liverpool hospital - the biggest for children in northern Europe.

He concluded that "the extent of organ retention is far more than would normally be expected" for the collections at two sites - at Liverpool University's Cardiac Research Centre and at Myrtle Street in the city.

Alder Hey chief executive Hilary Rowland, responding to the inquiry, said: "We agree with the report and welcome its findings. The Myrtle Street collection was clearly unacceptable and we apologise for any distress caused to parents.

"We are now asking for help to ensure this never happens again."

Consent forms

Parents are to be asked for assistance in drawing up new consent forms for obtaining organs which can be used in medical education and research.

milburn Alan Milburn: ordered independent inquiry
A separate independent inquiry has been launched by health secretary Alan Milburn and chief medical officer Professor Liam Donaldson is investigating the whole issue of organ retention. Both are due to be completed by March next year.

More than 2,000 hearts, brains and other organs were removed from children's bodies during post mortem examinations of children who died at the hospital.

Parents did not realise in signing forms of consent to the post mortems that they were also giving permission for pathologists to remove and keep the children's organs.

Professor Dick Van Velzen, who headed the histopathology service at Myrtle Street from 1988 until 1994, was reported by the hospital to the General Medical Council in September this year.

Alder Hey has issued a ban on organ retention which remains in place following publication of the inquiry report.

Ms Rowland added: "The trust is committed to learning from this dreadful experience. We want to make sure that the issues are identified and addressed, that safeguards are in place and that these practices never again occur at Alder Hey."

But the hospital was accused of "insensitivity" by families of children whose organs, and in some cases entire nervous systems, were removed.

Solicitor Ian Cohen, acting for the families, said: "This report has been published four days before Christmas, without us being given any advance warning and without any liaison with parents.

"The hospital has been unbelievably insensitive to us and to the parents - the people they should really be trying to get on side.

"These parents have been through enough and this report and the whole management of the release of this report has hurt them yet again."

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See also:
03 Dec 99 |  Health
Organ stripping: The reaction
04 Dec 99 |  Health
Organ laws may be tightened
04 Dec 99 |  Health
Doctor's 'life of helping children'
05 Dec 99 |  Health
Child-organ surgeon 'warned of time-bomb'
17 Dec 99 |  Health
Details given on organ removal inquiry

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