`Marchioness' families may sue over organs


A man whose sister-in-law died in the Marchioness riverboat disaster said his family is considering taking legal action after it was revealed that organs may have been taken from victims of the tragedy without the consent of relatives.

The findings have emerged through a non-statutory inquiry into how the victims of the disaster were identified.

Some families are now considering holding second funerals to reunite those who died with their major organs.

Mr Billy Gorman (42), from Crystal Palace, south-east London, who lost his 41-year-old sister-in-law Carmella Lennon-Gorman in the tragedy, said: "My family would seriously consider taking legal action if we can against whichever hospital is involved - it's a violation of human rights."

Fifty-one people on the Marchioness died when it sank after a collision with the dredger Bowbelle on the Thames in London early on August 20th, 1989.

The bereaved were originally told that just blood and urine samples were taken for toxicology tests for drugs and alcohol.

Mr Gorman added: "If somebody had said to my family they wanted to remove organs for research, we would probably have said yes, in the interests of improving medical research.

"What I object to is that the post-mortem was carried out without our knowledge or consent. What we need to find out is, did we just bury a shell?"

Two reports into the disaster, which are being overseen by Lord Justice Clarke, are due to be made public within the next two weeks.

One is a criminal report into who was responsible for the collision. The second is a non-statutory report into what happened to the bodies in the process of identification as 25 of the victims had their hands cut off to establish who they were.

Ms Margaret Lockwood Croft, whose son Shaun (26) died in the accident and who has led the Marchioness action group for nearly 11 years, said from her home in Hampshire: "We were informed that containers holding tissues or body parts of four of the victims had been found in the mortuary. It was later confirmed that such material had been taken from all 51 victims during postmortem examinations."

Ms Lockwood Croft said: "We want to know why these actions were taken when drowning was deemed the cause of death for all 51. This information is a further distressing note added to the burdens already borne by the families."

Ms Lockwood Croft added: "This new information and the findings of the Alder Hey investigation support the contention that the removal of tissues and body parts is not limited to hospital deaths of the young or stillborn, but occurs in other locations and across all ages.

"Changes are urgently required in present practices concerning the treatment of victims of all sudden death to give rights to the deceased and their families and to respect their religious and social beliefs.

"It is possible that an inquiry is needed to investigate these new issues openly."

She added: "Some families want to know exactly what was taken from their loved ones."

A spokeswoman from the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions said: "Samples of tissues from organs were removed and examined as part of standard post-mortem procedure.

"I understand Lord Justice Clarke's report, due this month, covers this issue."