Intended for healthcare professionals


Lessons we can learn from organ retention

BMJ 2003; 327 doi: (Published 23 October 2003) Cite this as: BMJ 2003;327:996
  1. Gillian Derrick, consultant anaesthetist (
  1. Birmingham Children's Hospital, Birmingham

    In 2001 and 2002 I was involved with the Birmingham Children's Hospital's organ retention inquiry. Most of the parents who contacted the hospital were interviewed not by managers or nurses but by clinicians. Half of these clinicians were paediatric anaesthetists who had had no involvement with these families before the inquiry and could provide impartial support, as well as broad knowledge of anatomy, physiology, and surgical techniques when explaining causes of illnesses and death.

    I met 40 families, and it was a sobering experience to hear common themes of inadequacy of treatment. They showed a lot of anger, but very little was directed at me. Instead, many parents expressed appreciation for the discussion and explanations. I was privileged to be party to their individual emotions, expressions of love for their children, and dignity in their grief.

    Several parents could not even remember a consent form

    Most of the deaths had occurred many years previously, when information about the causes of illness and …

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