Organs of miscarried babies 'were used in Sellafield nuclear testing'

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

London Evening Standard, 4 December 2007

The organs of miscarried and stillborn babies may have been harvested for testing by nuclear scientists, it emerged yesterday.

Victims of road accidents could also have been part of the grisly programme set up to establish whether workers at Sellafield had suffered radiation poisoning.

An inquiry into whether the corpses of Sellafield employees were plundered for the research is being extended. Bodies of employees at the Sellafield power plant were plundered for a research project on radiation poisoning. It will look into whether scientists examined the organs and tissues of miscarried and stillborn babies - not connected to Sellafield - to use their 'normal' organs as a 'control' against which samples from those who worked at the nuclear plant could be compared.

Angela Christie, whose father Malcolm Pattinson had organs removed following his death from leukaemia in 1971 aged 36, confirmed that the fate of some Cumbrian road accident victims and miscarried foetuses and their placentas are to be investigated by Michael Redfern, QC.

The Governmentcalled in Mr Redfern to investigate the 1962-91 testing programme earlier this year. Mr Redfern previously conducted the inquiry into the secret removal of body parts from 850 children at Alder Hey Children's Hospital in Liverpool.

The nuclear inquiry will look into the medical records of 57 workers at Sellafield, six at Aldermaston in Berkshire, one at Springfields in Lancashire and one at Capenhurst in Cheshire.

The latter eight had all transferred from Sellafield. It is not known whether families of the deceased were properly informed about the practice of removing organs for radiation tests during post-mortem examinations.

British Nuclear Fuels, which operates Sellafield, said that in most cases the tissue was taken following a coroner's request - suggesting at least some information may have been available to families.

But it said that in a handful of cases no record of consent exists. Mrs Christie, who organises a support group helping those affected by the scandal, said: "It has emerged that as well as testing organs from Sellafield workers, two control groups not connected with the nuclear industry were set up to ensure scientists could compare them and monitor any differences."

She added: "We have been told samples of tissue from road accident victims and possibly stillborn or miscarried babies could have been examined.

"At the moment it is only a possibility which the inquiry is looking into to ensure it is carrying out a thorough investigation."

BNFL is checking medical records for up to 20,000 staff to discover the extent of the controversy.

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