A couple were given the go-ahead yesterday to sue Alder Hey Children's Hospital over the removal of their baby son's organs, in advance of the conclusion of a government inquiry into the scandal.
A judge ruled there was no reason why Keith and Susan Shaw from Fazakerley, Liverpool, should not begin their case immediately - before the findings of the inquiry were known.
Alder Hey is the subject of two inquiries into the removal of organs from more than 800 children, one by the Department of Health and one national investigation chaired by the chief medical officer, Professor Liam Donaldson.
The Shaws' action is one of 450 pending from the parents of children who died and whose organs were removed without their consent.
Alder Hey Hospital had argued that all the actions should be deferred until the inquiries had been completed, probably in the autumn. But in a written judgment in the county court, Judge Gerard Fitzgerald said he "did not agree it is necessary or appropriate to order a general stay of the claim at this stage".
The consequence of the judgment for the other claimants was unclear yesterday. A spokesman for the hospital said: "Our lawyers say it is a complicated matter. No one knows what it means for the other parents."
Mr and Mrs Shaw received £5,000 damages from the children's hospital in 1995 over the death nine years ago of their 11-month-old son, Lee. When the Alder Hey scandal broke last year, the couple discovered his organs had been removed without their permission.
On Monday, representatives of the Shaws and the hospital put their arguments at a public hearing before the judge.
Sally Smith QC, for the hospital, said it would be detrimental to the inquiry for the Shaws' case to go ahead before its conclusions were reached. But John Gruffydd, for the family, argued: "There is no rule of law that suggests you cannot have civil litigation while an inquiry is pending."
Judge Fitzgerald said in his ruling: "I agree with the defendant that there are likely to be issues raised in this case which are also likely to be raised in the other cases referred to. In particular, the legal consequences of the alleged wrongful removal and retention of body organs following a post-mortem ... is in my view a matter which may well be raised in this and the other cases.
"I do not agree, however, that it is necessary or appropriate to order a general stay of the claim at this stage."
A spokesman for Alder Hey said: "After consideration of all the issues, our view was that it was more appropriate for Mr and Mrs Shaw's claim to await the outcome of the present ongoing inquiry. We appreciate, however, the Shaws' concerns to avoid delays, a concern which was obviously anticipated by the district judge."
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