The Human Tissue Authority has released the following statement concerning revelations that the Ministry of Defence (MOD) held body parts and tissue from soldiers killed in Afghanistan without their relatives' permission:
– Alan Clamp, Chief Executive, Human Tissue Authority
Our first thoughts are with the bereaved families at this very difficult time.
At their request, we will be meeting with Royal Military Police officials today in order to clarify the details surrounding this issue and to provide whatever guidance and assistance we can. We will release a further statement in due course.
The Ministry of Defence's admission to keeping the body parts and tissue of 30 service personnel is "disturbing", Shadow defence secretary Jim Murphy said today. According to the BBC, Mr Murphy said:
Withholding such sensitive and critical information from families of fallen loved ones is unacceptable.
Honouring sacrifice is a national duty which transcends politics. Everything must now be done to establish the facts to ensure this can never happen again.
The father of British soldier Captain James Philippson killed in Afghanistan in 2006 has told ITV News that the Ministry of Defence's admission to keeping body parts and tissue of 30 soldiers without the permission of their families is "unnecessary and horrific".
Anthony Philippson said that there was "no justification" for the post-mortem.
The Ministry of Defence has said it is "deeply sorry" after it emerged the body parts and tissue of 30 service personnel killed in Afghanistan were kept without permission of their families. Major General James Everard told the BBC:
These were just tissue samples that we had failed to recover post-inquest and deal with in line with the families' wishes.
It's a failure of process, nothing more than that, but we absolutely recognise this will cause distress and we're deeply sorry.
The Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust has issued a statement after the Ministry of Defence admitted that body parts and tissue had been taken service personnel without permission from their families. A spokesperson said:
The Trust is obliged to store tissue samples on behalf of the Coroner, until an investigation is complete and the Trust has received written instructions, from the Coroner that the samples are no longer required for the investigation and on what the relatives wish to do with the tissue samples.
Assistant Chief of the General Staff, Major General James Everard has told ITV News that tissue and body parts had been taken from 30 service personnel from the army, navy and the air force and that the practice had begun in 2002.
The former head of the Army, Lord Dannatt is quoted in the Daily Mail as saying in response to news of dead soldiers body parts being kept without permission:
If there are individuals responsible for allowing this type of thing to happen they must certainly be held to account.
Allegations like these are very serious and there must be an investigation. Everything must be done to see that this type of thing cannot be allowed to happen.
According to the Ministry of Defence, the number of families affected is likely to be less than 60 because multiple samples were taken for each case.
A spokesperson said the RMP Special Investigations Branch (SIB) has also taken swift action to ensure this cannot happen again and are identifying the families affected as quickly as possible.”
A change inthe way the SIB liaised with families has been blamed for the mistakes whichresulted in consent not being achieved.
The MoD said that as soon as this oversight came to lightin July 2012 procedures were immediately changed.
The Ministry of Defence has admitted that body parts and tissue from soldiers killed in Afghanistan have been kept without permission from their families.
“There are occasions when it is necessary for the RMP Special Investigations Branch to retain slides of forensic material from individuals killed on operations as part of their investigation, this is standard practice.
However, the RMP identified there were a small number of cases where this had been done without the correct processes being followed to inform families.
It is thought there could be 60 forensic items, such as microscope slides, containing material from some individuals.
– Army spokesman
Investigations are being carried out urgently into this matter.
The RMP Special Investigations Branch has also taken swift action to ensure this cannot happen again and are identifying the families affected as quickly as possible.