Organs scandal: Report due

Parents of children whose organs were removed by doctors without their full consent called today for a police investigation into the practice.

Hospitals were braced for a public backlash when health chiefs reveal how thousands of human body parts are being stored for teaching and research.

The full extent of the organs scandal was being laid bare by Chief Medical Officer Liam Donaldson today after an official survey of the nation's hospitals.

Prompted by the scandal at Liverpool's Alder Hey hospital, the survey will coincide with the publication of the long-awaited Redfern report into Alder Hey, where organs from thousands of dead children were removed and stockpiled.

Both reports were being made public at 4pm, and scenes of anger are expected as parents learn for the first time the true extent of organ removal and retention.

Health Secretary Alan Milburn, who has already called the Alder Hey report "grotesque" and shocking, has promised to act swiftly with sweeping changes in practice and policy to ensure patients must give informed consent in future.

Many bereaved families who discovered their children were buried without hearts, lungs, brains and other body parts claim they never gave informed consent to hospital doctors or pathologists.

They were hoping for prosecutions to follow the Alder Hey report.

Robin Makin, a solicitor representing some of the parents of children whose organs were taken, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "We are hopeful that Merseyside Police will now investigate the matter after the report is published, because clearly somebody who returns only a shell, knowing the body has been stripped of all its organs, has deceived the parents."

Janet Valentine said she held three funerals for her daughter Kayleigh, who died at Alder Hey in 1990, as the hospital twice returned organs that they had removed from her body.

Vanessa Bourne, chairman of the Patients' Association, said: "It is trust that has gone in so many of these cases because people on the inside knew what was going on and kept it secret from the patients, who are after all the reason for the health service."

The Alder Hey inquiry team, chaired by Michael Redfern QC, started to hear evidence behind closed doors last spring and presented its findings to the Department of Health in the autumn.

The document is expected to criticise Dutch cot death expert and pathologist Professor Dick van Velzen and hospital management who oversaw his work.

The professor, who was today keeping a low profile in the Netherlands, was head of pathology at Alder Hey from 1988 to 1995.

The existence of Alder Hey's heart collection - described as "probably the biggest and the best" - first emerged in September 1999 during the public inquiry into the deaths of babies at Bristol Royal Infirmary.

A month later, after hundreds of telephone calls from concerned parents, the Liverpool hospital admitted that other organs, including brains, lungs, kidneys and livers, had been stockpiled in a basement laboratory.

The Redfern document, believed to be some 600 pages long, is being published under parliamentary privilege.

Speaking on the eve of the publication of the two reports, Mr Milburn said fundamental changes in the laws governing patients' consent to operations and organ donation were needed to restore the public's trust in the health service.

"Above all else, for trust to thrive there has to be informed consent," he said.

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