Hillsborough Disaster victims' tissue kept from post mortems

Hillsborough Disaster
Image caption Ninety-six supporters died as a result of the Hillsborough Disaster

Tissue taken from the bodies of victims of the Hillsborough Disaster was retained without their families being told, the Hillsborough Independent Panel has said.

The panel, which is examining documents relating to the 1989 disaster, said after 10 post-mortem tests tissue was taken for further examination and kept.

The panel said the removal was "in accordance with established practice at the time".

It has written to affected families.

'Additional distress'

A spokesperson for the panel said: "The panel regards the personal details as strictly confidential to those families concerned, and not for public disclosure.

"Where families want to, we will discuss with them the options in relation to remaining tissue, and assist them to ensure it is dealt with respectfully in accordance with their wishes."

Ninety-five fans died in a crush at the FA Cup semi-final at Sheffield Wednesday's ground in April 1989, a 96th supporter, Tony Bland, died in 1993.

The Right Reverend James Jones, Bishop of Liverpool and chair of the Hillsborough Independent Panel, said: "I am sorry that this additional distress has been caused to some of the Hillsborough families, who have suffered greatly already.

"I know from my previous experience in Liverpool how much anguish has resulted from this practice.

"The panel believes that it is right that affected families should have the chance to find out about this now."

In 1999 it emerged that Liverpool's Alder Hey Children's Hospital had retained organs and tissue from dead babies without their parents' knowledge, as had other hospitals.

The 2004 Human Tissue Act made it illegal to remove or store human tissue without appropriate consent.

Dr Bill Kirkup, a medically qualified member of the Hillsborough Independent Panel, said: "New legislation and professional guidance have been introduced to ensure that nothing is removed from a body without the knowledge of relatives and that all body tissue is properly dealt with in accordance with relatives' wishes.

"This legislation and guidance was not in place at the time of the Hillsborough post mortems, and sadly the result has been additional distress.

"We are dealing with this as sensitively as we can, and I hope that families' privacy will be respected."

The Hillsborough Independent Panel was set up in 2009 to examine all documents relating to the disaster.

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