Alder Hey doctor 'failed to investigate' allegations of organ retention

The former medical director of Alder Hey Children's Hospital ignored concerns about organ retention over a period of three years, the General Medical Council was told.

Dr John Martin became yesterday the only individual involved in the Liverpool hospital's organ scandal to appear before a full hearing of the GMC's conduct committee. He denies serious professional misconduct. If he is found guilty he could be struck off.

The committee heard that Dr Martin was told in 1994 that a Dutch pathologist, Professor Dick van Velzen, had ignored a couple's wishes as specified on the consent form concerning their son'spost-mortem examination, by retaining some of his organs.

When challenged on the matter by Dr Jane Radcliffe, another doctor at the hospital Professor van Velzen apparently said that "only a small incision had been made and no organs had been retained".

Dr Radcliffe said: "It soon came out that ... was a pack of lies, sheer fantasy."

But Andrew Collender QC, for the GMC, said that Dr Martin "took no adequate steps" to investigate. As a result, organ retention continued, culminating in the discovery of vast numbers of human organs in a Liverpool University laboratory in 1999.

The Government commissioned the Redfern inquiry, which published its report in January 2001. It found that organs had been stripped from thousands of children. More than 80 doctors were named, of whom about 16 were criticised, including Dr Martin.

The GMC alleges that if Dr Martin had carried out a thorough investigation, further such "unhappy events" could have been avoided.

Dr Martin, 68, was a consultant at the hospital for 30 years and its medical director before his retirement in 1997.

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