April 23, 2024

40 years after, Scottish mother still mourns the son a hospital stole from her

Body used for tissue samples or organs

Forty years later, a Scottish mother is still mourning her son who died at 7 days. The death of Lydia Reid’s son Gary in 1975 was surrounded by mystery. He was sickly at birth and died in intensive care. She never had a chance to hold him and she specifically refused a request for an autopsy.

When he was buried, the undertakers initially refused to allow her to see him in his coffin. When they relented, she said that it was not her baby. She carried the coffin to the burial and thought that it was too light. But the authorities dismissed her concerns and said that she had post-natal depression.

In the 1990s the Alder Hey Hospital scandal broke and Ms Reid learned that government hospitals in England had been retaining organs routinely from dead infants without tell the parents. She became a leader in a movement to uncover the truth about what happened in Scotland. It turned out that government hospitals had unlawfully kept about 6,000 organs and tissues between 1970 and 2000, many of which belonged to children.

But what about her own son? She finally received permission to exhume Gary’s coffin. And as she suspected, there were no human remains inside, just a misspelled name tag, a cross, a hat and a shawl. Ms Reid is devastated. “”Even if he has been incinerated I want to know,” she told the BBC. “Even if he is lying in a jar in a hospital somewhere I want to know. If it is possible to get my son back, I want my son back. If it is not possible then at least tell me and let me have peace.”

A scientist who investigated the scandal in England told the Washington Post that some pathologists were puzzled by the anguish felt by parents. They could not understand why they “got so bothered by a corpse.”

“The remains were important to some people because of faith or they simply wanted their child buried whole,” she said. “Cold rationality only takes you so far,” she said of the medical community. “You have to take into account how these individuals feel.”

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alder hey scandal
respect for cadavers