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BBC NI's Paul McFadden:
"Mandy Moore said she was devastated to find her son's organs had been retained"
 real 28k

Thursday, 25 January, 2001, 20:07 GMT
Hospital makes organs apology

Hospital discovered organs were retained after investigation
A Londonderry hospital has apologised to the relatives of 60 people, whose organs were retained for long periods without their families' permission, after post mortem examinations.

Altnagelvin Hospital said 15 of the 60 people, whose organs were retained during the period 1992 to May 2000, were babies.

In a statement on Thursday afternoon, the hospital, which provides pathology services to the whole of the west of Northern Ireland, announced a detailed inquiry into the matter.

Altnagelvin Hospital's spokeswoman issued the statement after Mandy Moore, a mother from Limavady in County Derry, spoke of her distress at being contacted by the Patient Advocate nine years after her baby son Phillip's death.

Mrs Moore told BBC Radio Ulster: "I am totally devastated. My family are outraged that this has come out nine years later.

"Obviously I knew they were going to do something with the heart after the post mortem because the problem he had was very rare.

"But then they went on and took his heart and his brain without my consent."

She said it was particularly hurtful to know that she had buried her son, thinking his body was intact, and was now being offered his organs for burial.

Organ scandals

The hospital's admission that it retained organs came after a revelation by the Belfast Royal Victoria Hospital, that it had been storing the organs of 361 dead babies, removed without their parents' consent.

The RVH was criticised by some relatives because it made the announcement by saying concerned families could contact it, instead of contacting the families directly.

This followed the organ removal scandals at both Alder Hey Hospital in Liverpool and Bristol Royal Infirmary in England.

Altnagelvin Hospital's spokeswoman issued its statement after a woman from the local area spoke of her distress at being contacted by the Patient Advocate nine years after her baby son's death.

The spokeswoman said: "Whilst all the families gave written consent to the post mortem examination using the consent forms which were standard at that time, we acknowledge that they would not have expected organs to be retained for a prolonged period."

'Deep regret'

The hospital said that following a media inquiry, it had released a statement on its policy on the retention of organs following post mortem examinations, which said that one organ was being retained with the consent of parents.

"A more detailed investigation subsequently ascertained the total number of retained organs, following which the hospital put together a team to trace and inform families," the hospital spokeswoman said.

Expressing the hospital's "deep regret" and "sincere apologies", she said it was trying to contact each of the families affected to inform them of the position and to provide assistance.

Whilst in the past it had been the practice not to cause grieving families further distress by seeking explicit permission to keep organs, this is clearly no longer regarded as acceptable

Altnagelvin Hospital

"The hospital decided that its priority should be to contact the relatives affected by this information, rather than to make an initial, general announcement which would have caused uncertainty for a much larger number of families," she added.

"In the case of the babies, an experienced team has made contact with the mothers, for whom this is particularly distressing, and is providing support and assistance to help them come to terms with this information.

"In the case of the adults, the process of informing the next of kin is underway, and again, support is being offered to help families at this difficult time."

The hospital added that "although procedures had been in place since May 2000 to ensure that organs were not kept without permission, the hospital recognises that standard practices that occurred prior to that are now no longer appropriate".

It added: "Whilst in the past it had been the practice not to cause grieving families further distress by seeking explicit permission to keep organs, this is clearly no longer regarded as acceptable."

The hospital has set up a helpline for relatives, open from 0900 to 2100 GMT, on 02871 611371 or 02871 611368.

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See also:

12 Jan 01 | Northern Ireland
Couple's anguish over organ removal
11 Jan 01 | Health
Organ stripping law could change
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