Father's compensation hopes dashed

By Benedict O'ConnorA FATHER whose dead daughter's heart was removed without permission has had his compensation hopes dashed.It is 24 years since Tony Mortimer's 20-month-old daughter, Charlene, died from heart failure.

By Benedict O'Connor

A FATHER whose dead daughter's heart was removed without permission has had his compensation hopes dashed.

It is 24 years since Tony Mortimer's 20-month-old daughter, Charlene, died from heart failure.

But three years ago Mr Mortimer, from Sudbury, was devastated to learn his daughter had been buried without her heart.


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Mr Mortimer discovered, via the Retained Organs Commission, that Charlene's heart had been removed during a post-mortem examination at the West Suffolk Hospital, Bury St Edmunds.

It had been sent to Great Ormond Street Hospital in London, where it was examined and later disposed of.

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Now the 56-year-old has finally been told that he will not qualify for Legal Aid to appeal against a High Court ruling denying him compensation, meaning his legal struggle is now at an end.

“There was never going to be any winners in a case like this, but I just wanted some sort of closure,” said Mr Mortimer.

Charlene was born at St Leonard's Hospital, Sudbury, and suffered heart problems shortly after her birth.

When she was just a few days old Charlene underwent heart surgery at Great Ormond Street Hospital, but continued to suffer from a range of problems until her death.

Mr Mortimer recalled signing a consent form for a post-mortem examination at West Suffolk Hospital and that was the last he heard of the matter until the Alder Hey inquiry conducted in 2001 into the stockpiling of hundreds of organs at a Liverpool hospital.

“They say time's a good healer, but not in this case. When Charlene died, I just did my best to try to deal with it,” he said.

“But when I learned about the Alder Hey inquiry, there was a number you could call to check if your relative's organs had been used.

“I just wanted to put my mind at rest, but in some ways I wish I hadn't bothered. At first I was just devastated, but that has turned to anger and now I am furious. Charlene's heart was disposed of and I can never get it back.”

Mr Mortimer received an apology from West Suffolk Hospital, but decided to pursue a claim, along with more than 2,000 other parents, against the NHS.

In March this year Mr Justice Gage made a distinction between different kinds of post-mortem examinations.

He ruled that compensation would be awarded in the case of hospital post-mortem examinations, but not in the case of in coroners' post-mortem examinations, which Charlene had undergone.

Mr Mortimer, who spent £1,200 on the case, has been advised his Legal Aid will not be extended to an appeal and his solicitors have advised him against appealing the decision.

“I don't know what to do now, I really don't, I don't feel as if justice has been done, but it doesn't seem there's anything more I can do about it,” he said.

benedict.o'connor@eadt.co.uk

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