Australian hospitals kept 900 baby hearts

More than 25,000 body parts, including hundreds of baby hearts, are stored in hospitals and universities in New South Wales, Australia's most populous state.

More than 25,000 body parts, including hundreds of baby hearts, are stored in hospitals and universities in New South Wales, Australia's most populous state.

At least one-third of the human organs and tissues are thought to have been removed during post-mortem examinations, many without the knowledge or consent of families, according to a report commissioned by the state government. The remainder were retained after surgery or donated. They include 4,000 body parts from children, including more than 900 babies' hearts, held in two Sydney hospitals.

The audit was done after revelations in Britain that the body parts of thousands of children had been stored inhospitals, many without parental consent. Laws in New South Wales are to be amended to make it illegal to retain human tissue from autopsies or surgery without permission.

The report was published as the state opposition tabled a letter in Parliament from a couple who claimed that the brain of their stillborn baby boy had been kept without their permission. The father, who wants to remain anonymous, said: "It was probably worse than the day he was born. It's almost too much to take, two blows like that. We were never told his brain would be removed. We were never asked."

The state's health minister, Craig Knowles, said yesterday that the storing of body parts was much more widespread than was thought when the practice came to light in October. At the time, two Sydney hospitals admitted retaining organs and tissue for research, training and posthumous diagnosis.

The audit found that the practice dated back to the late 1800s, with most stored body parts obtained before 1980.

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