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'Why did they butcher my dead son?'
Frenchay Hospital
Andrew's organs were removed after he died at Frenchay Hospital
Last updated: 14 February 2004 1935 GMT
lineMaureen Thomas Powell was devastated twice over when she lost her teenage son after a road accident - then found 12 years later that his body parts had been removed and kept without her permission.
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BBC News: Organ retention court case
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Tighter laws on organ retention

 

 
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NACOR - National Committee relating to Organ Retention

 
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Maureen's son Andrew was 16 when he suffered severe head injuries in a moped accident near his Brockworth home in 1988. He was recovering well before contracting a fatal heart virus at Bristol's Frenchay Hospital.

But for his family the heartbreak didn't end there. Three years ago his bereaved mother made her horrifying discovery.

Post-mortem examination
Maureen was not told her son's organs had been removed and stored

A second harrowing funeral followed, to bury the body parts the family were never told had been removed.

Now Maureen is among 2140 families at the centre of a High Court battle seeking redress from the NHS for removing their children's organs without their consent.

Here she recalls how she found out - and the battle that followed.

I read a newspaper article about a couple whose son had been murdered and they found out that Frenchay Hospital was storing 1,400 brains that had supposedly been taken without permission.

When I saw the dates it made me think "Could my son's be one of them?'. I was horrified but I felt that for my son I had to make inquiries, painful as it was.

quote
I received a letter telling me yes, they had taken my son's brain and they were very sorry for all the upset this would cause my family. Even worse, they no longer had it. quote
Maureen Thomas Powell

They wouldn't tell me anything over the phone but I then I received a letter telling me yes, they had taken my son's brain and they were very sorry for all the upset this would cause my family.

Even worse, they no longer had it. I thought 'If they've taken that what else could they have taken?' so I wrote again and asked if they had taken anything else.

That's when they admitted they were holding 13 wax blocks with parts of his heart, lungs, liver and spinal cord and 65 slides with tissues on.

It was just absolutely awful finding that out. I felt as if I'd buried a shell. It was a shock.

Nightmares

The last time I saw my son was in the chapel of rest - I had to go and see him because I just could not believe he was dead, even though he had died in my arms, and at that stage he was whole.

"I feel as if the minute I left they whipped him away and butchered him."

That is horrific - it gives me nightmares.

I know it sounds selfish but if I had been approached by the hospital I don't think I would have wanted them to touch him, he'd been through enough.

quote
The last time I saw my son was in the chapel of rest ... and at that stage he was whole. I feel as if the minute I left they whipped him away and butchered him.quote
Maureen Thomas Powell

His brain and heart weren't suitable for transplant, and then to find they hadn't even used his organs for medical research - it's so pointless.

It might have helped me if I had known they had been used for that purpose. It was very underhand that they didn't ask my permission but not to use them for any purpose - that is 100 times worse."

Maureen admits that no amount of money will compensate her for the loss of her beloved eldest son - so what does she hope the court case will achieve?

"I don't want other people to go through what I went through. Hopefully there will be a change in the law and we want an apology and for them to accept that what they did was wrong.

"It's hard enough losing a child without having to go through this as well. I have been offered £1,000 compensation but it's not about money - it's about getting an apology.

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