Department of Health

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6. The Retained Organs Commission

The Retained Organs Commission was formally established on 1 April 2001 by the Secretary of State for Health.

The Commission has identified four main tasks arising from my recommendation:

  • to manage the process of organ return in the NHS;
  • to provide advocacy for families;
  • to consult on and propose a regulatory framework for museums and archives of material obtained from post mortem examinations; and
  • to advise Ministers about the changes needed in the law relating to post mortems and organ retention.
Professor Margaret Brazier, Chair

Professor Margaret Brazier, Chair

The Commission is chaired by Professor Margaret Brazier, Professor of Law at the University of Manchester since 1990.

For more information and to access the Retained Organs Commission's first Annual Report, please visit:

Investigation into Central Manchester and Manchester Children's University Hospital NHS Trust

On 2 August 2001 the Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health, Hazel Blears, announced that she was asking the Retained Organs Commission to undertake an Investigation in relation to organ retention in Manchester and indicated her intention to publish the Commission's report. This followed serious allegations and concerns raised by parents and relatives about Central Manchester and Manchester Children's University Hospitals NHS Trust. The allegation was that a significant collection of children's hearts had been concealed or destroyed.

On 18 October 2001 the Commission was formally directed by the Secretary of State to carry out an investigation and deliver a report of its findings to the Ministers. The Commission in turn set up a small team to carry out the Investigation.

The team published its findings in July 2002. The report concluded that there was not an exceptional level of retention of children's organs or bad practice in Manchester, as regards pathology work, disposal or research. Fears that there had been or was a large heart collection and that this had been concealed, destroyed or moved were unfounded.

The report concluded however, that there was an inadequate and naïve response by Manchester Children's Hospitals NHS Trust to public anxiety about these issues. This was not in the interests of the public or families directly concerned.

The full report and the Department of Health's response to the report (July 2002) are available online.

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