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Removal of organs and other tissues from bodies of former nuclear plant workers over 30-year period was result of 'unacceptable working practices', energy secretary says
The removal of organs and other tissues from the bodies of 76 former workers at nuclear plants over a 30-year period that began in the 1960s should not have happened and was the result of "unacceptable working practices" in the NHS, the coroners service and the nuclear industry, the energy secretary, Chris Huhne, said yesterday. Speaking in the Commons to launch the report that followed a three-year inquiry into the affair, Huhne confirmed that families' views had not always been obtained before organs had been taken, as required under the law.
The inquiry, led by Michael Redfern QC, was ordered in 2007 by the then trade and industry secretary Alistair Darling, when it emerged that organs had been removed from former workers from the nuclear facility at Sellafield, some without the permission of relatives. It was initially set up to look at post-mortems carried out on former workers between 1962 and 1991, but was later extended to cover former workers at nuclear establishments at Harwell, Aldermaston and Springfields.
Redfern also examined research studies, sponsored by the Medical Research Council, on bones taken from more than 6,000 people, many of them babies, and spanning two decades. In these cases, researchers were looking for evidence of strontium 90, a radioactive element that accumulates in bones, which scientists in the 1950s thought might be absorbed in harmful amounts through the atmosphere or the food chain.