Thousands of Scots babies' bones removed
Investigation. By Rob Edwards Environment Editor
The thigh bones of more than 2100 children who died during the 1960s in Scotland were secretly removed from their bodies without the knowledge of their parents as part of an international scientific study into the dangers of radiation from nuclear weapons tests.
A Sunday Herald investigation has revealed that leading medical researchers at Yorkhill Sick Children's Hospital in Glasgow reduced femur samples from most of the babies and young children who died in west central Scotland between 1959 and 1970 to ashes, so they could be analysed for radioactive contamination.
Every year between one hundred and two hundred thigh bones of children from Glasgow, Renfrew, Lanark, Dumbarton, Argyll and Ayrshire were removed or sampled at post mortem examinations in Yorkhill. A handful came from Perthshire, Ross and Cromarty, Sutherland and Orkney. The UK Atomic Energy Authority, which initiated the research, and the Medical Research Council, which oversaw it, have both admitted parents were not asked for their consent. This was 'completely unacceptable', said the Scottish Executive, which suggested the matter be examined by the special review group it set up to report on organ retention in the wake of the Alder Hey scandal in Liverpool.
The revelation that bones were also removed from children's corpses without informing their families has also appalled parents. 'It's horrific,' said Jeannette McGowan, who lost her 16-month-old daughter, Sally, in Glasgow in 1964. 'You have a small child in a coffin, all covered up. You don't know what they've done.'
Scientific reports from the Medical Research Council seen by the Sunday Herald show that femur samples were removed during the post mortem examinations of up to 200 children a year in and around Glasgow. More than half the children were still-born; most others died before they reached the age of five.
After being incinerated, the femurs were analysed for the radioactive isotope strontium-90, which was being spread around the world by hundreds of atmospheric nuclear tests. Doctors feared that because it was contaminating milk, it could be building up to dangerous levels in children's bones.
But in 12 years of analysing the bones, the only permission ever requested from bereaved parents was for routine post mortem examinaions. 'The Scottish Executive very much regrets any additional distress this news may cause parents,'' a spokeswoman for the health minister, Susan Deacon, said yesterday.
'The Review Group is in the process of looking at the current legal position, which needs to clarified. '
Lorraine Mann, from Scotland Against Nuclear Dumping, blamed the UKAEA, which now runs the Dounreay nuclear plant in Caithness, for the parental heartache.
'Each of these children was a unique person, loved and treasured, prayed for and mourned over, but it seems their bodies were casually and callously dismembered to meet UKAEA's public relations aspirations,' she said.
She claimed the UKAEA used the high levels of radioactive pollution from nuclear weapons fall-out to justify its discharges of radioactive waste into the sea and air from nuclear facilities. The allegation was roundly dismissed by the UKAEA as 'offensive and absolutely untrue'.
'If the fact that arrangements for parental consent were different 50 years ago added to the grief [of parents], of course I regret that,' said UKAEA head of corporate communications, Beth Taylor.
But the research was defended by one of the doctors who led it, Professor Gavin Arneil, formerly at Yorkhill hospital, as ethical at the time it was conducted. It was vital in exposing the risks of nuclear fall-out, he said, and parents were better to remain 'in blissful ignorance' .
focus: The baby bones scandal
Commento: rubarono le ossa per nascondere le prove della contaminazione radioattiva che causa gli aborti e la morte dei bambini. Tutto questo al fine di impedire eventuali future cause per danni. Notare che la dottrina del segreto viene sempre e comunque spacciata come benefica. Occhio non vede... magistrato non duole.