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Monday, 17 June, 2002, 14:31 GMT 15:31 UK
Mother fights for organ scandal action
Alder Hey Hospital in Liverpool
Only two doctors were disciplined for retaining organs
A mother whose dead baby's organs were removed without her knowledge, has begun her fight in the High Court for doctors to face disciplinary proceedings.

Her QC, Richard Gordon, said after an independent inquiry the government promised that "those responsible will be brought to book".

Christine Woods, 32, of Kirkby, Merseyside, is challenging the General Medical Council's refusal to refer the cases of 11 doctors to its professional conduct committee after hundreds of similar cases at Liverpool's Alder Hey Children's Hospital.

The pressure group Pity II, which represents the affected families, wants a judicial review into the GMC's decision not to discipline all the doctors involved in organ retention.

Unfairly blocked

Mr Gordon told Mr Justice Burton that Mrs Woods' case was a sample case - just one of many.

He argued the GMC had irrationally and unfairly blocked cases alleging serious professional misconduct which should have gone to full hearings.

Mrs Woods' son, Scott, was born on 30 September 1989 at Liverpool Maternity Hospital and died the following day.

Three days later his body was transferred to Alder Hey and a post-mortem operation was performed on 9 October 1989.

Professor Dick van Velzen
Professor van Velzen was convicted in Canada
It was not until 10 years later, in October 1999, that Mr and Mrs Woods were first notified that their baby's body organs - including heart, brain, lung, liver, spleen, kidney, intestines and thymus - had been removed and retained.

There was a public outcry as more and more cases came to light.

An independent inquiry concluded in January 2001 that Professor Dick van Velzen and his team unlawfully and unethically removed organs from all the bodies on which he performed post-mortems examinations between 1988 and 1995.

According to GMC lawyers, after the inquiry 16 names were initially referred to the disciplinary body.

Proceedings could not be taken against several who were not registered with the GMC at the time.

But in 11 of the cases it was decided that there were no grounds for charges of serious professional misconduct.

Held accountable

Only Professor van Velzen and retired medical director Dr John Martin were referred to the professional conduct committee.

Asking for that decision to be ruled unlawful, Mr Gordon said the GMC had gone against government statements in Parliament after the inquiry that all those involved would be held accountable.

This is the first time the GMC's disciplinary procedures have come under public scrutiny.

The hearing, at the High Court in London is expected to last two days.


Click here to go to Liverpool

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14 Jun 02 | Health
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