At least 40 British patients given body parts stolen in United States

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Indy Lifestyle Online

At least 40 patients have received bone grafts alleged to have been stolen in America and sold to British hospitals.

The patients were among those treated in 25 hospitals which bought bone tissue for use in bone grafts and dental implants from an American company, Biomedical Tissue Services. The hospitals have been named by an NHS watchdog, and include Guy's, St George's, Northwick Park, all in London, and the Royal London, as well as seven private hospitals.

The US firm is at the centre of allegations that more than 1,000 body parts were stolen by gangs in New York and sold for transplants. The body of the veteran BBC broadcaster Alistair Cooke, who died aged 95 in 2004, is reported to have been traded in the case.

Police in the US are investigating claims that managers of the company took the body parts without the next of kin's consent. They are also accused of falsifying death certificates to show that bodies were younger and free from disease ­ putting recipients of the stolen parts at possible risk. Four people have pleaded not guilty to the charges.

The UK Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Agency said that 82 body parts had been imported to Britain from Biomedical Tissue Services and an unknown number had been implanted in patients. All the parts imported were bone tissue which had been "screened and processed" to remove the risk of infection, the MHRA said.

The affected hospitals were informed when the scandal broke last October and all unused bone parts were recalled, but the list was not made public until yesterday, after a Freedom of Information request. The MHRA said the risk to patients who had received imported bone grafts was negligible and it was up to the surgeons whether to inform the patients. Airedale General Hospital in Keighley, West Yorkshire, decided last year to inform its only patient who received an imported bone graft, but others did not. Twelve patients who were treated at the University Hospital of Wales and Llandough Hospital are now being contacted.

In the US, the Food and Drug Administration recommended patients who received a graft should be screened for diseases including HIV. But the MHRA said in a statement yesterday: "The issue in the US about potential infection risks was different because there was a much wider range of tissues involved rather than the bone graft tissue distributed in the UK."

The hospitals

* Airedale General Hospital, Keighley

* BUPA Hartswood Hospital, Brentwood

* BUPA Hospital, Cardiff

* Derriford Hospital, Plymouth

* Doncaster Royal Infirmary, Doncaster

* Guy's Hospital, London

* Llandough Hospital, Llandough

* Mayday University Hospital, Croydon

* North London Nuffield Hospital, Enfield

* North Staffordshire Royal Infirmary, Stoke-on-Trent

* Northern General Hospital, Sheffield

* Northwick Park and St Marks Hospital, Harrow

* Parkside Hospital, Wimbledon

* Royal London Hospital

* Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital, Stanmore

* Scunthorpe General Hospital

* Somerset Nuffield Hospital, Taunton

* Southend Hospital

* St George's Hospital, London

* Taunton & Somerset Hospital, Taunton

* Torbay Hospital

* University Hospital of Wales, Cardiff

* Warrington Hospital

* Wellington Hospital, London

* Wessex Nuffield Hospital, Eastleigh