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Body Parts

Freedom of information request: Body Parts

1 July 2013

Thank you for your e-mail dated 4 June in which you asked for the following information under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002:

  1. The number of cases in each of the last five years where the Crown have ordered or permitted the retention of a body part or organ of a person.
  2. The number of instances in each of the last five years where a family or next of kin of a person whose body part or organ was retained was not informed of their options (to postpone a funeral until the part is released, to have the part cremated at a later date or to donate the part to medical science) before the funeral or cremation was held.
  3. Details of Crown Office action to deal with the issue of retained body parts and organs in the last two years.

You clarified in your e-mail dated 12 June that, with regard to your third question, you are looking for any policy changes or working groups which have been made or set up to deal with the issue of body parts being retained on Crown authority. I have been asked to reply.

With regard to the first two questions, while we do endeavour to provide information whenever possible, in this instance the cost of locating, retrieving and providing the information requested would exceed the upper cost limit of £600. 

We do not keep statistical information of this type and the only way to answer your request would be to examine every set of deaths and homicide papers.  The Scottish Fatalities Investigation Unit deals with approximately 13,500 deaths per annum. Post mortems are conducted by NHS in Dumfries, Ayrshire and Inverness and by the Universities of Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Dundee and the figure for Glasgow University alone is 2,700 per annum.     Under section 12 of FOISA public authorities are not required to comply with a request for information if the authority estimates that the cost of complying would exceed the upper cost limit, which is currently set t £600 by Regulations made under section 12.  You may, however, wish to consider reducing the scope of your request in order that the costs can be brought below £600.

With regard to question 3, while we continually monitor our systems for ensuring that we are aware of removed body parts and ensure that these are dealt with appropriately, there have been no working groups set up to deal with this issue.