No prosecutions in nuclear organ removal 'scandal'

Image caption, Most of the organs were taken from Sellafield workers

No-one is to face prosecution after an inquiry found the organs of dead nuclear workers were removed without permission, it has been revealed.

The Redfern Inquiry was ordered when it emerged in 2007 that tissue was taken from 65 workers at Sellafield in Cumbria between 1962 and 1992.

But Sir Michael Redfern QC, who led the inquiry, said no-one could be charged because the case happened too long ago.

Under new laws, those responsible would now be "fined or imprisoned", he said.

Publishing the 640-word report on Tuesday, Energy Secretary Chris Huhne said it was "regrettable" organs were taken.

Copeland MP Jamie Reed said the case was a shameful "scandal".

He said: "The whole episode is shameful, and frankly some of the detail in the report is sickening.

"I feel angry for all those people and families affected."

The inquiry highlighted "unacceptable working practices within the nuclear industry, NHS pathology services and the coronial service" and concluded families' views were not always obtained as required under the Human Tissue Act 1961.

Mr Redfern said a new law was brought in in 2004 after the Alder Hey Hospital organ removal scandal tightening up the rules on obtaining families' permission.

He said: "This means that now if a doctor failed to obtain consent and retained body parts for an unapproved purposes he could be fined or imprisoned or both."

On Tuesday, Mr Huhne expressed his "heartfelt regret" and apologised to the relatives of those involved.

The inquiry found that employees' organs were analysed for contents of radionuclide - an unstable form of an element that can decay and give off radiation.

Mr Huhne said that in addition to organs taken from Sellafield workers, organs from 12 staff at other nuclear sites at Springfields, Capenhurst, Dounreay and Aldermaston were also analysed at, or at the request of, Sellafield - giving a total of 76.

The liver was removed in all cases and one or both lungs in all but one. Vertebrae, sternums, ribs, lymph nodes, spleens, kidneys and femurs were also stripped in the majority of cases.

Image caption, Malcolm Pattinson died in 1971

Brains, tongues, hearts and testes were also taken on the advice of the medical officer at Sellafield. All the organs were later destroyed.

He said the inquiry found that "families' views about organ retention were not always sought, and that very few families knew that organs were taken".

The report said the majority of the post-mortem examinations were undertaken by pathologists at West Cumberland Hospital as part of an "informal arrangement" whereby the Sellafield medical officer would be notified.

Once stripped, organs were taken by car in a coolbox to Sellafield.

Angela Christie's nuclear work father, Malcolm Pattinson, died of myeloid leukaemia in 1971 and his organs were removed for testing.

Mrs Christie, from Arlecdon, near Frizington, said: "I'm quite disappointed that management and doctors appear to have got away with it because they are blaming the coroners.

"There have been quite appalling practices at the hospital."

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