Victory for families over dead children's organs

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The Independent Online

More than 2,000 bereaved families, who accused the medical profession of unlawfully taking organs from their dead children without their knowledge, today won a High Court ruling that the practice was negligent.

More than 2,000 bereaved families, who accused the medical profession of unlawfully taking organs from their dead children without their knowledge, today won a High Court ruling that the practice was negligent.

The ruling was given by Mr Justice Gage in London in an action brought by parents who said their loved ones had organs taken without consent by the NHS in a morally and ethically "objectionable" practice.

The action centred on three lead cases involving the removal and retention of organs from babies Rosina Harris, whose parents Karen and David are from the Dorchester area, Daniel Carpenter, whose parents Alan and Susan live in Norfolk, and Laura Shorter, whose mother Denise lives in the Oxford area.

The judge gave judgment in favour of Mrs Shorter in the sum of £2,750, but dismissed claims in the case of the Harris and Carpenter families.

The judge's ruling means that claims of other parents can now be dealt with.

Rosina Harris was born on 6 October, 1995. She died three days later.

Daniel Carpenter was born on 12 September, 1985. He died on 8 February, 1987. Laura Shorter was born dead on 10 October, 1992.

Rosina was born with "many physical disabilities", Laura was stillborn and Daniel died aged 17 months after surgery to remove a brain tumour.

The claims had been contested by NHS Litigation Authority, which rejected the claim that the medical profession had acted unlawfully.

After the ruling, one of the lead solicitors for the claimants, Mervyn Fudge, said: "It means that persons who are claiming in relation to hospital post–mortems will be entitled to compensation.

"Those persons who are subject to Coroner's Courts post–mortems will not be given compensation."

He added: "In the hospital post–mortem cases the judge has found the claimant was owed a duty of care and that was breached.

"The doctors were guilty of negligence and provided that we can show psychiatric damage then they are entitled to damages."

Around two–thirds of the cases before the court involved hospital post–mortems – meaning that 1,350 claimants may now be entitled to compensation.

Richard Lissack QC, for the claimants, said the court had held that the clinicians' decision in those cases not to tell the relatives that if they consented to a post–mortem on their dead baby that its organs may be kept was negligent.

In a statement, the NHS Litigation Authority said the finding of the judge was both "important and complex".

It said the NHS had succeeded in winning two of the three lead cases and two of the three issues the court was called upon to decide.