Page last updated at 14:00 GMT, Thursday, 18 September 2008 15:00 UK

Body parts records to be released

Samples were taken legally, says the British Nuclear Group

An inquiry into the removal of body tissue from dead Sellafield nuclear workers can examine the patients' medical records, a judge has ruled.

Michael Redfern QC is heading a public inquiry into why samples were taken between 1962 and 1992 and whether next of kin were informed.

But doctors raised doubts over whether records of dead patients could be seen and handed over to the inquiry.

A High Court judge has ruled the disclosure was in the public interest.

The inquiry began in April 2007 after the GMB union said tissue samples were taken from up to 70 former Sellafield employees.

Autopsy samples taken included tissue, bones and body parts removed without permission, the GMB claimed.

'Fuller answers'

British Nuclear Group said tissue was taken for "legally correct" purposes.

A test case was brought by a doctor who is custodian of thousands of occupational health records of nuclear workers.

Dr Nicholas Lewis asked the High Court to clarify whether any disclosures to the inquiry and others, including British Nuclear Group, would be a breach of confidentiality obligations.

Mr Justice Foskett said on Thursday he had "not the slightest doubt" the records should be disclosed.

He said disclosing the records "outweighed" patient confidentiality rights and that families of former nuclear workers were "entitled to fuller answers" as to what was done with the bodies of their loved ones.

However, the judge said the disclosures would be subject to "proper safeguards" and records would only be viewed under terms of strict secrecy.

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