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Organ Retention

Freedom of information: Organ Retention

25 September 2013

Thank you for your e-mail of 27 August 2013 in which you requested the following information under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (FOISA):

1. The number of instances since 2000 that the Crown Office have informed a family or relative that a person's organ has been retained without their knowledge or consent. If the figure cannot be found, please tell me how many instances the Crown Office are aware of for that period.

2. The number of funerals for which the Crown Office has met some or all of the costs for as a result of the situation outlined in question one.

3. The cost of those funerals.

COPFS is committed to liaising sensitively and respectfully with nearest relatives in all deaths which are reported to a Procurator Fiscal, including those in which organ retention is necessary. Where retention of an organ is required for the purposes of an investigation into the circumstances of a death, in accordance with COPFS policy, the nearest relatives of the deceased will be advised. The requirement for retention will be reviewed as the investigation continues and the nearest relatives will continue to be advised as the investigation progresses.

Since 2000, our central records indicate that in two cases across Scotland COPFS has informed a family or relative that a person's organ was retained without their knowledge or consent. In each of these cases, the Procurator Fiscal has advised the nearest relatives concerned and has apologised for any distress which was caused. In each case, a full review of the circumstances has been conducted to ensure that such a situation does not reoccur. This relates to information held within a central database and therefore we cannot guarantee that this information is complete. As you be will be aware from previous correspondence, a significant number of deaths are reported to COPFS every year and it is not possible to examine each case for the information requested within the cost limits set out in FOISA.

Our records indicate that in one of those cases COPFS met some or all of the funeral costs. In relation to part three of your request, that information is not held in a manner which would allow it to be provided in response to your request. A search of the information requested could not be carried out within the relevant threshold in FOISA and, therefore, we are unable to assist further with this part of your request. In addition, you will wish to note that our case management database is a live, operating database and is not structured in a manner which would allow us to carry out a full search for the information requested at part 2.