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Evolving practice
  1. United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust
  2. The County Hospital
  3. Greetwell Road, Lincoln
  4. alastair{at}

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Editor,—I am aware that a respected scientific journal does not normally indulge in political issues but you seem to be setting a precedent by “Reflecting on Redfern”.1

As a registrar at the Alder Hey Hospital in the 1980s, I was one of those taking consent for post mortem from parents of children dying in the cardiac unit. It was one of the most difficult jobs I have ever had to undertake. It was done, not to provide specimens for museums, but to provide parents with as much knowledge as possible about why their child died. It was regarded as the parents' right to have this information, and that was the spirit in which consent was obtained.

It is true that details of the procedure were not volunteered but neither were they withheld if requested, which was hardly ever. As many people have commented, it was not the intention to deceive but to avoid distress. The lack of probing by parents only seemed to confirm their wish not to know. I believe I undertook this task with honesty and integrity. I feel no shame in my actions and have no wish to offer an apology.

Professor Hall was correct to say we should all be looking at what we do now, for which we shall be castigated in the future. Inevitably something will emerge but does this mean we are all currently acting in a paternalistic, arrogant, callous fashion. I do not think so.

If, in the 1980s, I had been required to gain specific permission for organ retention I could have accepted that as part of my job. However the system and parents did not request that I did. Why is it necessary to effect this change in practice in such an agonising fashion? The answer is in our malevolant British media, who are not content with evolving practice but need scapegoats and whipping boys.

We need as a profession to respond to changing expectations of society, but must we do so in such a self flagellating manner?


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