Expert Lawyers Call For Public Inquiry Into Birmingham Baby Organ Retention ‘Scandal’

Mum Launches Legal Action After Learning Her Son’s Organs Have Been Kept For 15 Years

20.01.2014

Expert medical lawyers say they are deeply concerned after being contacted by a woman who has been informed her son’s organs had been kept for 15 years without her permission, after he died of cot death.

The mum-of-three, who does not wish to be named, has instructed medical law experts at Irwin Mitchell to investigate after the Head of Environmental Health and a Police Liaison Officer (PLO) visited her at the beginning of December to inform her that a number of her son’s organs had been taken from his body by a Pathologist and stored for the past 15 years at Birmingham Central Mortuary.

The PLO could not confirm which of her baby’s organs had been taken and stored or the reasons why, but the heartbroken woman says she was informed that they had a number of other families to also make contact with and the information had come to light through an audit that was progressed in the wake of the Alder Hey organ retention scandal, which became public in 1999.

Now, specialist medical lawyers at Irwin Mitchell have called for an urgent independent inquiry to discover the scale of the situation and provide answers to all those affected about why their babies organs were taken without prior consent and the purpose of the retention.

Mandy Luckman, a Partner and medical law expert at Irwin Mitchell’s Birmingham office is representing the unnamed mum.

Expert Opinion
The information my client has been given by the Head of Environmental Health and police is deeply concerning.

"Until a Public Inquiry in 1999, the general public was unaware that Alder Hey and other hospitals within the NHS were retaining patients' organs without family consent and we believe the details emerging about this Birmingham case warrant a further independent Public Inquiry to get to the bottom of why this information is only emerging now.

"Under no circumstances should the organs of a deceased baby or adult be kept without permission of their family. In this case, our client’s son died one year before the Alder Hey scandal was made public but it is only now, 14 years on that she has found out his organs have been kept, and she hasn’t even been told why.

"We would like to know what efforts have been made by the appropriate authorities to communicate with families about what has gone on, why it is only now these details are emerging and what the authorities intend to do to reassure current patients and families that, should the worst happen, the deceased will continue to be treated with dignity and respect."
Mandy Luckman, Partner

The mum-of-three added: “My son was born healthy in June 1998 but less than three months later, he died of cot death and was taken to Birmingham Children's Hospital. I was distraught. An inquest was opened and his body was released so we could hold a funeral and my son was cremated.

“The inquest was then closed in April 1999 and as far as I was concerned, my son was buried and he was at peace.

“During the meeting earlier this month with the police and environmental health officers, I was given a letter which explained that during the post-mortem, samples were taken from my son’s body to help establish the cause of death and that they remained in Birmingham Central Mortuary and I now needed to decide what I wanted done with them.

“I was completely stunned, there would never be a good time to receive this information but learning about it now has ruined Christmas – as far as I was concerned I had laid my son to rest 15 years ago.

“I want to know why my son’s organs were kept without my consent, which organs have been kept and whether any tests have been carried out on his organs over the last 15 years.

“This was my son, a real human being, and not an object to be used for tests without my knowledge for years to come. I’m determined to get to the bottom of what went wrong and how many others are affected. It is the least we deserve and I owe it to my baby boy.”

Read more about Irwin Mitchell's expertise relating to medical negligence claims.