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The Bristol heart babies Tuesday, 21 September, 1999, 11:21 GMT 12:21 UK
'Hospital gave me baby's heart in box'
Parents protested outside the GMC in London
A mother who did not know that doctors had kept her child's heart broke down in tears as she told a public inquiry how it was returned four years later.

Helen Rickard, from Bristol, told the inquiry into the city's Royal Infirmary that she held her daughter Samantha's heart in her hand.

"I felt highly privileged to have been able to do that because of who my daughter was."

Samantha died in February 1992 after surgery to repair serious heart defects, but it was not until 1996 that her mother found out the hospital had retained the organ following a post mortem.

Helen Rickard told the inquiry that the discovery had "shocked and distressed" her.

"I buried Samantha believing I buried all of her as she came into this world. I then had the terrible prospect that her heart been removed."

The hospital eventually allowed her to see the organ, and to take it home in a box to be buried.

The panel also heard that her partner Andy was buried on top of the child's coffin after committing suicide.

Thousands of hearts held

The inquiry has already heard that more than 10,000 hearts are held in hospitals along with thousands of other organs.

They are used to help train future surgeons.

This segment of the inquiry is considering how parents of children being treated for heart problems were treated by the hospital authorities and doctors.

The inquiry is also looking at the quality of the clinical services offered by the trust over a ten year period leading to 1995.

Surgeon James Wisheart and manager Dr John Roylance have already been struck off by doctors' disciplinary body the General Medical Council.

Another surgeon, Janardan Dhasmana was banned from operating on children.

See also:

15 Mar 99 | The Bristol heart babies
13 Sep 99 | The Bristol heart babies
15 Mar 99 | The Bristol heart babies
15 Mar 99 | The Bristol heart babies
17 Mar 99 | The Bristol heart babies
15 Mar 99 | The Bristol heart babies
08 Sep 99 | The Bristol heart babies
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