Part 3 – Audit of retained organs
3.1 The IPS conducted an audit of organs retained by pathology service providers after the release of deceased bodies to nearest relatives. The audit covered the period from July 2014 to end of January 2015. The purpose of the audit was to check whether the procedures implemented by COPFS in response to our recommendations had achieved the desired purpose - to provide a professional, effective and sensitive system for organ retention and to ensure that there were sufficient safeguards to prevent any further instances of nearest relatives not being informed of organ retention following a post‑mortem instructed by COPFS.
3.2 We contacted all pathology service providers and requested confirmation of how many organs they had retained between July 2014 and the end of January 2015. We also sought confirmation of any organs retained prior to July 2014.
3.3 We examined the monthly returns sent by the pathology service providers to the Scottish Fatalities Investigation Unit (SFIU) and the organ retention database record held by SFIU.
3.4 We found that since the publication of the thematic report on organ retention in July 2014, there has been one organ retained. The nearest relatives were advised of the retention. We found that the recording and notification procedures had all been followed. The retention was authorised by COPFS following a request from the examining pathologist. The pathology service provider subsequently reported the retention on the monthly retention sheet submitted to SFIU and it was duly noted on the organ retention database held by SFIU. The organ was subsequently returned to the nearest relatives and at that time the relevant entry was removed from the organ retention database in accordance with the agreed procedure to remove entries from the organ retention database once an organ has been uplifted for burial or cremation.
3.5 As at January 2015 there are five organs in total being retained, authorised by COPFS. In all cases the nearest relatives are aware of the retention and the purpose of the retention.
3.6 It is extremely encouraging that the number of cases where an organ has been retained since July 2014 is so low. It reflects one of the most significant findings of the report, namely that there is now consensus among the pathology service providers that organ retention should only occur exceptionally.
3.7 We received positive feedback from the pathology service providers confirming that the current practice is, wherever possible, to delay the release of a deceased's body for a short period to allow the organ to be examined and re-united with the body prior to being released. We hope that this practice continues, resulting in as few organs as possible being retained and thus minimising distress to nearest relatives.
3.8 It is also pleasing to note that, in the one case where there was an organ retained, the proper procedures were undertaken and that the procedures achieved the desired outcome of ensuring that both COPFS and pathology service providers were sighted on the retention and, most importantly, that there was the required engagement with the nearest relatives.
3.9 As stated in our thematic report on organ retention, the IPS will undertake a further audit of retained organs in July 2015.