Apology over organs taken from nuclear workers' bodies

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain apologised on Tuesday for the unauthorised removal for laboratory analysis of organs and tissue from the bodies of dozens of people who worked in the nuclear industry over three decades from the 1960s.

An inquiry by leading lawyer Michael Redfern found that pathologists removed organs from 64 workers at the Sellafield nuclear plant in northwest England and 12 workers at other nuclear sites.

The organs were examined at Sellafield as part of research into the health effects of work in the industry, but the authorities failed to get consent from the workers’ relatives.

“To lose a family member is tragic. To find out, sometimes decades later, that tissue had been taken without consent is an unimaginable distress,” Energy Secretary Chris Huhne said in a statement to parliament.

“There is no time limit on grief or on apologies and I would like to take this opportunity to express my heartfelt regret and to apologise to the families and relatives of those involved.”

Huhne said the law governing the treatment of human tissue had been tightened in 2004 and that the practices uncovered by Redfern’s inquiry, set up by the previous government in 2007, would not be permissible today.

The law was changed after a scandal over the removal of body parts from children who died at a hospital in Liverpool. Redfern also conducted the inquiry into that case.

Reporting by Estelle Shirbon and Keith Weir; editing by Tim Pearce