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Alder Hey organ scandal ends with final burial

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A grim chapter in the Alder Hey organ scandal will come to an end this month when the last human remains in the possession of the hospital are laid to rest.

A final burial service will take place for tissue samples, organs and foetuses which were never claimed by relatives.

The interment, on 29 January, will be followed by a memorial service next month and the dedication of a memorial garden, the Liverpool hospital said.

It comes more than 10 years after it emerged Alder Hey had stripped hundreds of dead babies of their organs without the permission of relatives.

Body parts, some of which were also obtained by other hospitals, were then secretly held for medical research.

The findings of an inquiry into the affair were described by the then health secretary Alan Milburn as “grotesque”.

Burial services for unclaimed remains have been taking place weekly since May last year at Liverpool’s Allerton Cemetery, where the memorial garden has been established.

Paula O’Leary, of the Alder Hey parents’ support group PITY II, said she believes the remains have not been claimed because some parents are unaware of the extent of the organ retention.

Her 11-month-old son Andrew had his heart and 36 other body parts taken following his death from a brain haemorrhage in 1981.

Mrs O’Leary said: “This happened for many years at different hospitals and people simply don’t know that their child could be involved.

“It breaks my heart that these children will have their funeral without their families, but it is about time they were treated with dignity and given a burial.”

A spokeswoman for Alder Hey said: “Alder Hey Children’s NHS Foundation Trust and the University of Liverpool are to complete the respectful interment of unclaimed retained organs, foetuses and tissue samples held in their possession in a final burial ceremony on Friday, 29 January.

“This is the final part of a process developed by the trust and the university over the last few years and which is compliant with the Human Tissue Authority’s code of practice on disposal.

“Those parents who have had organ retention confirmed, but who took no further action at that time, are advised to contact the helpline and inquiry service if they have any concerns or questions about the burial process.”

The helpline can be contacted on 0800 073 2030 and will be operational until the end of March this year.

The final burial will take place at Allerton Cemetery, Woolton Road, Liverpool, on Friday, January 29.

The memorial service will take place at All Souls Church, Mather Avenue, Allerton, Liverpool, at 10am on 26 February followed by a dedication ceremony for the Memorial Garden at Allerton Cemetery at 11am.

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