Bonus payment in stolen organs scandal

Sunday Mercury Feb 20, 2005


STAFF at a Midland hospital were paid a 12p 'bonus' to remove glands from dead children's brains.

Birmingham Children's Hospital reluctantly admitted that shameful payments wore made to mortuary technicians who cut out tissue for medical research.

Hospital bosses revealed the payment after the Sunday Mercury threatened to report them for failing to supply the details under the new Freedom of Information Act.

Last night one angry parent said: "This was a scandalous abuse of our children's bodies."

A HOSPITAL has revealed hat staff were paid a 12.5 p 'bonus' for cutting out body parts from dead children without their parents' permission.

The cash was given to mortuary technicians at Birmingham Children's Hospital for the removal of pituitary glands from the brain which were later used for research.

The Sunday Mercury forced health chiefs to reveal the shameful payments under  the new Freedom of information Act.

But the cash bonus was the ONLY figure health chiefs could confirm they had received after taking thousands of organs from children over a 35-year period and selling them for research.

No other files  relating to the scandal - including which companies had received the body parts -could he found, they claimed.

 In 1999, the Sunday Mercury vas the first newspaper to reveal how Birmingham Children's hospital had retained organs and issue from dead children. As well as pituitary glands, the hospital had admitted taking 1,500 hearts, lungs and brains from  deceased  young  patients without gaining proper written permission from parents.

We used the Freedom of Infor­mation Act to try and force the hospital to reveal exactly how much money it had accepted for he body parts, and list the names of the pharmaceutical companies involved.


The Trust initially said no cash payment figures were available, although it acknowledged that they had received some 'donations' in return for the organs.

It was not until we threatened to report the Trust to the Information Commissioner for failing to comply with the new act that the figure of 2/6d was revealed-the equivalent of 12.5 p in today's money.

The only other cash that the health unit admitted receiving was 'a small donation' from a pharmaceutical company for supplying tissue from thymus glands, found in the upper chest. But they claimed no other records relating to the transactions could be found and that they had no official records of the names of the companies involved.

Matt Redmond, founder of the Birmingham-based Stolen Hearts Bereaved Parents Group, said: "Five years later and they are still trying to cover this whole scandal up.

"How can they say they no longer have the records of these transactions? How could they have got rid of them? Do they not think this information is important to people?

"Some of the families we represent have had to hold two or three funerals to bury their children properly. But the hospital cannot even tell us the full account of why they put them through this ordeal."

The campaigner's six year-old daughter Karen had her heart removed without his permission at the Children's Hospital in 1966.

He added: "It is a scandalous abuse of our children's bodies. The Trust clearly put profits before people.


"Words cannot describe the anger of the bereaved parents whose children's bodies were abused in such a way.

"It is barbaric.

"Those responsible for the theft and sale of our children's body parts should be brought to justice and not see the light of day again."

The NHS had offered 1,348 families caught up in the national scandal of retained organs a £3.3 million settlement last year after a judge ruled that doctors had acted illegally.

But Health Service officials are now refusing lo pay the legal bills of half the families, meaning that they could eventually be left with as little as £500.


The bereaved parents were forced to take health bosses to the High Court, even though parents at Liverpool's Alder Hey Hospital -where the retained organs scandal was first uncovered - were given £5.000 each.

Lara McGuigan. Information Governance Manager at Birmingham Children's Hospital, had initially dealt with our inquiry.

Her statement, released to us after the maximum 20-day period allowed by law, said: "The only post-mortem tissues that we are aware of that were forwarded to an external body for therapeutic use were pituitary glands.

"These were sent to the Medical Research Council as part of a national programme.

"The Trust received no payment for this, although it is understood a nominal payment was made to the mortuary technicians.

"This practice ceased in the early 1980s when a synthetic growth hormone became available.

"In addition, thymus tissue from patients undergoing cardiac surgery were provided to a pharmaceutical company.

"We can find no official contract with the pharmaceutical company and any finance

records we have only date back six years, therefore we are unable to provide any further information in relation to this."

But we were not satisfied. We appealed about the lack of infor­mation provided.

We warned the hospital that failure to comply with the new Freedom of Information Ac,. which came into force on January 1, could result in a custodial sentence.

Acting Chief Executive of the Trust, Duncan Edwards, eventually responded last week and said he could only provide one figure.

He said: "We did indicate that a nominal payment was paid to the mortuary technician, a sum thought to be 2/6d. However, again, this is purely speculative and we hold no evidence to support this view.

"In conclusion, the information in relation to payment is purely speculative since no records have been found to clarify or substantiate these statements.

"Furthermore, I believe that the Trust has provided you with the information that it holds and I reiterate that we are unable to ascertain how much the Trust received or to whom the tissue samples were provided."


THESE are just a few of the tragic children whose organs and body parts were removed by Birmingham Children's Hospital staff without their par­ents' permission.

Karen Redmond died in 1966, aged six, after an operation to correct a congenital heart condition. In 1999 her Birmingham parents, Matt and Carol, learned the hospital had kept 42 organs and body parts without their permission. These included her brain, trachea, pancreas, liver, spleen and even ovaries.


Little Paul Miller died in 1985, aged two. He had also been born with a congenital heart condition and lost his battle for life after a heart test was carried out under general anaesthetic at the hospital. His mum Lynne Lang ley, from Dudley, was later told his heart, lungs and possi­bly parts of his brain had been taken for research.


In a tragic twist, her sister-in-law Sandra Towner also discovered that the heart and brain of her dead son, also called Paul, had been taken after his death in August 1990. He was just 10 days-old.

Sharon Evans, from Sedgley, only discovered her baby daughter Rebecca's heart, brain, lungs and 52 other pieces of her body were taken seven years after her death. Tiny Rebecca was just 13 days-old when she died of chronic heart disease at the hospital in 1992.

Michelle Buckley died in 1987, seven days after her birth. Her parents Steven and Delia, from Stoke-on-Trent, later discov­ered doctors had removed 12 of her organs, including heart, lungs, liver and kidneys.