RE: returning tissue blocks to relatives

From:Richard Pitman <>

I'm sure all my fellow histologists in the UK would agree that this is an extremely silly situation.

In one or two teaching hospitals over here, 'interesting' tissues and organs were retained and placed in collections. 20  or more years ago, relatives were not routinely consulted about this, it was assumed that the PM consent form gave the hospital sufficient authority. Now this knowledge has come, grudgingly, into the public domain, and in the current climate of political correctness (can't think where we got that from .. ), idiocy thrives. 

Relatives are requesting tissue and organs are returned, so that these can be interred with their loved ones, assuming a grave exists. Tissue and organs has been interpreted as slides and blocks, as well as larger specimens.  Cynics might suggest that some of these relatives are actually looking large sums of cash, as 'compensation' for their 'grief'.

No matter that pathologists were generally acting entirely within the law, and that this material was taken for research and teaching, to the benefit of all, possibly even the siblings of the deceased. The consequences of this are far reaching. Morale amongst pathologists is now even lower, we lab staff have wasted weeks searching 30 year old archives for records which might or might not exist. Post mortem examinations as we knew them may cease -  a good time for doing an undetected murder, I'd think. We have had to endure departmental searches, and sign documents to state that we haven't got human remains hidden in our lockers.

I shouldn't be wasting my time typing this, I should be responding to the e-mails I received today regarding patient queries. (The authorities have actually encouraged people to phone in !)

Richard Pitman FIBMS,
Head MLSO,
Dept of Histology, Cytology & Immunology,
Worcester Royal Infirmary NHS Trust

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