May 29, 2024

UK Govt apologises over removal of organs

Nuclear power plant workers organs removed without consent between 1955 and 1992


The UK government has apologised to
families of nuclear power plant workers whose organs were removed after their
deaths without consent between 1955 and 1992. “The events described in the
Inquiry should never have happened in the first place,” said Energy Secretary
Chris Huhne. “We have learned the lessons of the past. The law on human tissue
has been reviewed, and there is now a rigorous regulatory system in place.”

No one will be prosecuted as the scandal
occurred so long ago. It has emerged that organs were removed from 62 workers
at Sellafield and from 12 workers at other plants. Tissue removed and retained
for research included livers, lungs, vertebrae, ribs, lymph nodes, spleens,
kidneys, femurs, testes, brains, hearts and tongues.

The public became aware of the scandal at
the Sellafield power plant in 2007. An inquiry by Sir Michael Redfern QC was
established to look into the matter. He presented his
last week.

He found that pathologists were either
unaware of, or oblivious to, requirements for consent from next of kin. They erroneously
believed that they had carte blanche to remove organs and tissues for whatever
reasons they saw fit. He was critical of the coroners, who often failed to read
pathologists’ post mortem reports, and thus were unaware that tissue had been
removed inappropriately.

“There was a lack of ethical
consideration of the implications of the research work the industry was doing,
that there was limited supervision undertaken, and that relationships between pathologists,
coroners and the Sellafield medical officers became too close,” said Mr

Many of the relatives told the inquiry that
they were shocked and distressed by the perceived lack of dignity and respect
shown to the body. One told Sir Michael: “My family and I have been absolutely
devastated as a result of what has gone on… they showed severe disrespect to my
father’s body and I find this mutilation very disturbing.” ~ Guardian,
Nov 16
; Nuclear
Engineering International, Nov 16

Michael Cook